What’s On previews the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, featuring films like 99 Homes, Big Hero 6, The Drop, and Trash. See new movie trailers of films featuring.

VIDEO: Films at DIFF
– Emily Blunt at DIFF 2014
– Best of DIFF 2013
– DIFF 2013 trailers
– Volunteer at DIFF
– 10 years of DIFF
– Movie-themed hotel

Just how big of a deal is the Abu Dhabi Film Festival? Very big, if you consider how many movies wanted to be a part of it. A campaign to promote the event around the world – the UAE Pavilion was a big draw at the glittering Cannes Film Festival in May – saw more than 2,000 submissions for this eighth edition of the ADFF. Only the top five per cent made the final cut.

Abu Dhabi’s film industry has gone from strength to strength since the launch of the festival in 2007. Scenes for big budget Hollywood blockbusters Star Wars: Episode VII and Fast And Furious 7 were shot here earlier in the year, and a sprinkling of A-list stardust is expected on the red carpet (Uma Thurman and Richard Gere have both attended in the past) as the event’s international reputation continues to grow. We’ve rounded up the movies you need to know about ahead of opening night on October 23.

Screening times and prices are available at abudhabifilmfestival.ae.

October 23 to November 1


Jules And Jim
Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre
What’s it about? Jules and Jim are both in love with the same woman, the unpredictable Catherine. François Truffaut’s 1962 film examines how the relationship between the three friends unfolds over the course of 20 years. This is one of seven films ADFF directors have selected for their homage to the iconic French director.

99 Homes
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
What’s it about? Set in Florida in 2006, unemployed construction worker Dennis Nash (Garfield) is turfed out of his home along with his mother (Dern) and son. To support his family, a desperate Nash goes to work for Rick Carver (Shannon), the unscrupulous real estate broker who made them homeless. The housing crisis drama won rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival and is already generating Oscar buzz.

Big Hero 6
Starring: Ryan Potter, TJ Miller, Jamie Chung
What’s it about? When his hometown, San Fransokyo, comes under threat, super-genius Hiro Hamada teams up with his band of friends – including a plus-size inflatable robot called Baymax – to form a band of high-tech heroes determined to avert disaster. From the creators of Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph and loosely inspired by the Marvel comic of the same name, the animated action adventure movie comes to Abu Dhabi one week after its world premiere in Tokyo.

The Drop
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini
What’s it about? Bob Saginowski (Hardy) is the manager of Cousin Marv’s, a Brooklyn bar used by a crime syndicate for its “drops” – nightly deliveries of dirty money to be laundered. After a burglary goes wrong, Bob finds himself drawn closer to the centre of horrible events. The Drop is the late James Gandolfini’s final screen appearance.

Starring: Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen
What’s it about? Set in an unnamed city in Brazil, teenagers Raphael, Grado and Rat spend their days picking through rubbish dumps in the hope of finding useful trash. One day, they discover a wallet that puts them in direct conflict with the city’s brutal and corrupt police. Sheen and Mara play a priest and his assistant who help the boys as they run from the authorities. Adapted from the children’s book of the same name, Trash is directed by Stephen Daldry, whose previous work includes Billy Elliot and The Hours.


Iraqi Odyssey
Starring: Souhir Ahmed Riadh
What’s it about? This 3D documentary by Swiss-Iraqi director Samir follows the lives of his own family as they uproot themselves from Iraq and scatter across the globe. A film in three acts, the movie starts in newly independent Baghdad in the ’50s, follows the emigration of his family in the ’70s and finally returns to Baghdad amid the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The film also captures Iraqi disappointment at the country’s failed dreams for democracy. Iraqi Odyssey was one of four Arab films that premiered at TIFF and received funding from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Iraqi Odyssey, at Abu Dhabi Film Festival

The Valley
Starring: Carlos Chahine, Carole Abboud, Fadi Abi Samra
What’s it about? After losing his memory following a car crash in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, the film’s unnamed protagonist finds himself held hostage on a farm which doubles as an illegal drugs-production facility. This is Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab’s second instalment in a trilogy that started in 2011 with The Mountain and will be followed by The River.

The Valley, at Abu Dhabi Film Festival

From A To B
Starring: Madeline Zima, Christina Ulfsparre, Ali Suliman, Fahad Albutairi
What’s it about? Touted as a warm-hearted road movie, A To B follows three childhood buddies who have grown apart as they take a road trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut in memory of a friend who died five years earlier. Co-produced by twofour54 and Image Nation, this is director Ali F Mostafa’s second full-length feature film and will open the festival.

From A to B, at Abu Dhabi Film Festival

The Wanted 18
Starring: Alison Darcy, Heidi Foss, Holly Uloth O’Brien, Rosann Nerenberg
What’s it about? This documentary from Palestinian artist Amer Shomali and Canadian director Paul Cowan tells the true story of the 18 cows whose independent milk production on a Palestinian cooperative farm prompted Israel to declare them “a threat to the national security of the state of Israel” during the First Palestinian Intifada (1987-1993). Using stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews, the filmmakers pay tribute to the power of grassroots activism over violence.

The Wanted 18, at Abu Dhabi Film Festival

Starring: Jacir Eid, Hussein Salameh, Hassan Mutlag, Marji Audeh, Jack Fox
What’s it about? As the First World War rages in Europe, Theeb (Eid) is learning the Bedouin way of life from his brother Hussein (Salameh). Into this unforgiving environment in a forgotten corner of the Ottoman Empire stumbles a British officer (Fox). When Hussein is instructed to guide the officer to his destination, the uninvited Theeb tags along for the adventure. This coming-of-age drama was shot entirely on location in Jordan against the stunning backdrop of Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba and cast with members of a Bedouin tribe. Jordanian filmmaker Naji Abu Nowar won best director in the Horizon’s category at the Venice Film Festival for this, his first feature film.

Theeb, at Abu Dhabi Film Festival


How has the film festival changed over the years? In the beginning, in the first two years, we tried to build the festival in this country. Since then we’ve focused more on the content of the films.

What makes ADFF different from the other Gulf film festivals? We have always supported Arab filmmakers by putting them in a competition with films from all over the world. We also support new Arab filmmakers in our New Horizons competition. In New Horizons this year, we have many submissions from Iran, Russia, China, France, Italy, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco.

Why did you choose an Emirati film, From A To B, to open the festival? We have always supported Arab and local talent. We have a good Emirati film – so why not open the festival with it?

Has the ADFF been a good platform to promote Arab films to the rest of the world? Five years ago we started our SANAD fund [for development and postproduction] and this has played a very important role in supporting Arab filmmakers, and at the same time many great projects coming from all over the world. We got a couple of films into the Venice film festival and at Toronto there were four films, that was a great success for us.

The festival has helped to propel a number of movies to success. Murk Light, directed by UAE-based Iraqi director Yasir Al Yasiri, won two awards at the 2012 festival and went on to be nominated for an award at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. Djinn, the first ever UAE-produced horror film, which premiered at last year’s festival, was panned by critics but went on to take over Dhs1 million in its opening weekend. Nisha Pahuja’s documentary The World Before Her played at the 2012 festival and went on to be nominated for an Emmy award in the Outstanding Coverage Of A Current News Story category.