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Saturday, October 17

Festival Daily Crucial Middle Eastern Films at MEIFF

On Thursday there was a lot of excitement at MEIFF for three crucial, often edgy Middle Eastern films. Highly regarded Iranian auteur Bahman Ghobadi’s No One Knows About Persian Cats had its Middle East premiere at the Emirates Palace in the evening. The aggressively anti-mainstream ode to struggling indie-rockers in Tehran was one of the most anticipated films at this year’s festival, and sure enough there was a long line and standing room only in the theater. The film is not only “hip” but emotionally engaging, and several in the crowd (many of whom were Iranian) were moved to tears at the end. At the Q&A session afterwards, audience members enthusiastically thanked Ghobadi for telling about a hidden side of life in Iran. Earlier, Ghobadi had also attended the Middle East premiere of fellow Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly. A melancholy psychological drama and a searing portrait of contemporary Iran, Elly has won top awards at festivals all year (including Best Narrative Feature at Tribeca). As with Persian Cats, many Iranians were in the audience, and again, during the Q&A, several raised their hand to personally thank Farhardi for creating such a great cinematic work in telling a story about Iranians. The evening was capped by MEIFF’s Gala presentation of Yousry Nasrallah’s Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story. A boxoffice phenomenon in Egypt over the summer even as it sparked controversy, Scheherazade was actually being shown in a more “complete” version at MEIFF due to a scene being censored in Egypt. The dynamic film (which also sold out the Emirates Palace Auditorium) stars Mona Zaki as a successful TV reporter who provokes outrage by interviewing regular women about their lives. At the Q&A, Nasrallah said he had chosen the script because of the way it showed Arabic women making transitions in their lives. Actress Sawsan Badr confirmed this, saying the film gives her hope that the Arabic film industry has turned a corner with how it depicts women. It was heartening to see so much emotion and reaction inspired by these films, as stories with such diverse, often challenging, and important views of life in the Middle East are genuine expressions of MEIFF’s mission.

Saturday, Oct.17: Program Title


Run Time





93 mins



100 mins *

Cinestar 3




120 mins

Cinestar 1




125 mins *

Cinestar 2




119 mins *

Cinestar 3




90 mins

Emirates Palace


DJ Matthew Charles

12 am 120 mins

Cinestar 2



* Filmmakers to speak at Q&A after the screening.


Arabic Editor/Translator: Loubna Ammer Copywriter: Jim Poe Publications Manager: Cindi Rowell Designer: Ghazal Shahlaei Printer: Emirates Express Printing, Abu Dhabi

Ten Days. One City. A Crossroads of Cinema October 8-17

Naomi Watts at MEIFF On Friday afternoon, Naomi Watts made an appearance at MEIFF for a conversation in the Festival Tent. For about an hour, the star actress (Mulholland Drive, 21 Grams, King Kong) spoke informally and candidly onstage in the Tent with journalist David D’Arcy (from The National and Screen International) about her career, dealing with fame, and the project she’s filming in the Middle East. Watts (who has also recently done some production) stated, “Film is one of the greatest art forms,” and said that she had known she wanted to work in film her whole life. It was “a total dream” for her to work with Woody Allen (on a film due for release in 2010). Watts is currently in production in Cairo and Jordan, and told the audience how appreciative she was of the opportunity to work in the Middle East. She admitted, when asked by a member of the audience, that she had never visited Abu Dhabi until that day, but said her first impression was very good. Despite traveling at the moment, she said she’s been picking and choosing projects and limiting herself lately based on the needs of her two children. Watts also said she is occasionally mobbed by fans, but more often left alone, and that overall, she can handle fame. It was not really a surprise to hear this considering how charming and down-to-earth she was during this session.

Arabian Nights Party Following Thursday’s screening of Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story at the Emirates Palace, there was an Arabian-themed party at the hotel restaurant L’Auberge. Guests – including Narrative Jury president Abbas Kiarostami, Scheherazade director Yousry Nasrallah, Port of Memory director Kamal Aljafari, Cooking with Stella actor Don McKellar, and many others – were entertained by a snakewielding bellydancer and a whirling dervish dancer whose costume was bedecked with colorful lights. The late-night party spilled out onto the terrace, where groups gathered to enjoy treats from the lavish buffet, to smoke shisha, or just to chat.

Black Pearl Awards

Festival Tent

Narrative Feature Competition “What in the World Are We Doing to Our World?”

Special Events

Box office Locations:

On Saturday, October 17, the winners of the 2009 Middle East International Film Festival’s Black Pearl Awards will be announced. Jurors including Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, Tunisian star Hend Sabri, Chinese-American icon Joan Chen, Palestinian auteur Rashid Masharawi, and Bollywood producer Sunil Doshi are currently deliberating. There will not be a MEIFF Festival Daily on October 18; check for the announcements and details from the awards ceremony and other closing festivities.

Emirates Palace (Lobby and Auditorium) Cinestar Cinemas (Marina Mall) Grand Cinema (Abu Dhabi Mall)

Let’s Tent...

Join us every day from noon to 2 am on the main terrace at the Emirates Palace.

MEIFF´09 Festival Daily - Saturday, October 17  

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