“Listen, anybody who has a film festival has the right to show what they want.” Abel Ferrara, screenwriter
Like buses, you wait for events for ages and then two come along at once. In Abu Dhabi last week it was the 7th Annual Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) which overlapped with the start of the Abu Dhabi Grind Prix four-day extravaganza which finished yesterday. Running from 24th October until 2nd November, the film festival showcased ninety-one films from fifty-one countries (the best of Arab and International moviemaking) that included eleven premieres screened over ten days, as well as talks from visiting filmmakers and master classes.
After last years positive experience, I purchased tickets for ‘Philomena’ and “Only Lovers Left Alive’ both screened at the fantastic Emirates Palace Hotel (not your average cinema location) and from completely different genres. Now the other half ditched me for the football on TV so I literally dragged the teenager along to ‘Philomena’. The very sad and moving story of Philomena Lee (Judy Dench), an Irishwoman who spent decades searching for her lost son, that Catholic nuns had sold into adoption in America. Based on a true story from the book written by journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) it’s a great story tinged with comedy moments and the partnership of Dench and Coogan was fantastic. Controversially for this region, the movie touched on homosexuality and Aids which drew so sharp intakes of breath from some filmgoers around us. If you get a chance go and see ‘Philomena’ for Dench’s performance if nothing else. Definite thumbs up from me!
Now if you see ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ on your local cinema listing, DO NOT bother going! Seriously I am doing you a favour! It was about a reclusive vampire rock star, yes you read that right, but as it was played by Tom Hiddleston (he of Thor and War Horse fame) and I am a Twilight and True Blood fan, I assumed (wrongly) that it would be good. Now in the defense of my movie selection, it also had Tilda Swinton billed as the girlfriend Eve and received 7.2 on my go to movie app IMDb so it showed promise (IMDb you let me down and usually you so reliable). The real issue with the plot was where was it? What the hell was going on? Most strange and dark and over two hours of my life gone, the other half who showed up this time was not impressed and fidgeted a lot, says it all really!
Hiddleston plays vampire Adam, an underground musician reunited with his lover/wife for centuries Eve played by Swinton (yes they are Adam and Eve) who lives in a different country, after he becomes depressed and tired with the direction human society has taken. Interrupted and tested by her wild and uncontrollable little sister (played by Mia Wasikowska) they end up taking victims again after their blood supply (even John Hurt as their blood dealer/supplier could not save the film) dies. Make any more sense, nope not to me either!
Now I was surprised to read on the Cinema Blend website the reviewers comment “This was my absolute favourite film at this year’s New York Film Festival, and the trailer up top gives a good sense of its sensual languidness and rich mood. But one thing this trailer leaves out is just how wonderfully funny Only Lovers Left Alive is.” Not sure we actually saw the same film and I completely missed the so-called humour or maybe it was cut out of our version!
At last year’s ADFF, we saw the Middle East premiere of ‘Flight’ where security lined up alongside all the aisles wearing night vision goggles (all very James Bond) to stop anyone filming it on their phones, all very exciting and a good movie too, so you can see why my expectations were high for this year! You know what they say about expectations………. I am not deterred though by my choices, as you have to see bad to appreciate good!
This years ADFF opening night attracted international stars onto the red carpet in true Hollywood glamour style with Oscar and BAFTA award-winning actor Forrest Whittaker (Last King of Scotland, Vantage Point, The Butler) making a well publicised appearance. Taking to the stage during a standing ovation at the Emirates Palace, Whittaker was presented with his second Black Pearl Achievement Award by festival director Ali Al Jabri. The opening night film was ‘Life of Crime’, starring Jennifer Aniston and Marke Boone Jr, but as tickets were invitation only, we were unable to attend but Boone and the film’s director, Daniel Schechter were in attendance to watch the screening.
I was really pleased to read in Gulf News that Dench had clinched the best actress award in the Narration Feature Competition for ‘Philomena’ announced at the gala’s closing ceremony on Thursday night. Great to see a British actress win the award, a very well deserved accolade Dame Judi!
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2013. All rights reserved.