What’s On previews Dubai International Film Festival 2014, with info on free screenings, how to get tickets for the best films at DIFF 2014.

Emily Blunt at DIFF 2014
VIDEO: Furious7
VIDEO: Star Wars trailer
Best of DIFF 2013
DIFF 2013 trailers
– Volunteer at DIFF
– 10 years of DIFF
– Movie-themed hotel

The Dubai International Film Festival is back for its 11th year, and packing just as much as the record-breaking 10th anniversary edition of 2013.

A total of 118 features, film shorts and documentaries will be screened across eight days, starting December 10, with The Theory Of Everything, the story of one the planet’s finest minds, Stephen Hawking, taking the prestigious opening slot.  In total, there will be 55 international premieres from 48 countries in 34 languages. It truly is a festival for the whole world.

Following the likes of American Hustle, The Railway Man, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Frozen, Inside Llewyn Davis, Champ Of The Camp and 12 Years A Slave – which went on to win Best Film at the Oscars earlier this year – organisers have once again landed a series of top notch Hollywood productions to partner the very best in local talent.

Among the A-listers to star in the Cinema Of The World section of the 11th instalment of DIFF are Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Reese Witherspoon, Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Laura Dern.

That’s all well and good, but how can you be involved? A variety of ticket packages are available to buy online (dubaifilmfest.com), starting from Dhs80 for the Arab Film package and rising to Dhs500 for the Red Carpet Gala package. During the festival tickets for individual screenings will be available from DIFF box offices at Souk Madinat, the Madinat Arena, and VOX Cinema at Mall Of The Emirates. Prices start from Dhs15 for students.

There are also free public film screenings at The Beach, opposite JBR, starting at 7.30 pm. There, things start on Wednesday with a live broadcast of the opening night red carpet from Madinat Arena. Then, until the Dec 16, ‘St Vincent’, ‘I Am Big Bird’, ‘Meet the Patels’, ‘Abood Kandaishan’, ‘The Crow’s Egg’, ‘Red Army’ and ‘X+Y’ will all be shown.

Check out the films our experts don’t think you should miss, as well as details of when they will be screened.


Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Gaby Hoffman, Laura Dern
Showing: Madinat Arena. Wednesday December 17, 4pm
Reeling from the aftermath of divorce, drug abuse and the death of her mother, Cheryl Strayed sets out to hike 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail on a solitary journey of healing and self-discovery. Based on Strayed’s best-selling memoir, the adaptation attracted some stellar talent. Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl, Dallas Buyers Club’s Jean-Marc Vallee directs, and the screenplay is from Nick Hornby.


The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
Showing: Madinat Arena. Tuesday December 16, 6pm
Mall Of The Emirates. Wednesday December 17, 8.15pm
This historical thriller has already claimed the top prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cumberbatch is Alan Turing, the genius code-breaker who played a key role in cracking the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies to win the Second World War. Keira Knightley co-stars as Joan Clarke, Turing’s friend and fellow code-breaker.


Escobar: Paradise Lost
Director: Andrea Di Stefano
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro, Brady Corbet
Showing: Madinat Arena. Saturday December 13, 6pm
Mall Of The Emirates. Wednesday December 11, 3pm
This tense drama sees Canadian surfer Nick (Hutcherson) fall in love in Colombia, only to discover that his girlfriend’s uncle is the billionaire drug lord Pablo Escobar, played by Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro. Nick gets drawn into the family business as he realises the extent of the kingpin’s influence, and quickly finds himself in over his head.


A Most Violent Year
Director: J. C. Chandor
Cast:  Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo
Showing: Madinat Arena. Saturday December 13, 2pm
The American dream gone sour, this movie charts the efforts of immigrants to make it Stateside in 1981, statistically one of the most violent years in the New York’s history. The film shines a light on criminal temptations that swirl around the life of Abel Morales and his family.


Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Mark Ruffalo
Showing: Mall Of The Emirates. Saturday December 13, 7pm
Mall Of The Emirates. Wednesday December 17, 3pm
This is the movie that sees Carell set comedy aside to flex some serious acting muscle in a chilling crime drama. Foxcatcher tells the true story of Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Tatum), whose brother Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) was murdered by multimillionaire and paranoid schizophrenic John du Pont, played by Carell.

FURTHER AFIELD The pick of the foreign language films

Wild Tales
Director: Damián Szifrón
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Óscar Martínez
Showing: Madinat Arena. Monday December 15, 6pm
Mall Of The Emirates. Wednesday December 17, 6.30pm
A black comedy drama in the portmanteau style (a movie containing several films that are linked together by a common theme or event), Wild Tales is effectively six stand-alone short films linked by violence and revenge. The Argentine film was co-produced by féted Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother, Talk To Her).


Director: Chaitanya Tamhane
Cast: Vira Sathidar, Vivek Gomber, Geetanjali Kulkami
Showing: Mall Of The Emirates. Monday December 15, 9.30pm
Mall Of The Emirates. Wednesday December 17, 6pm
The debut feature from director Chaitanya Tamhane, a blistering commentary on India’s justice system, scooped two prizes at the Venice Film Festival, including the Lion Of The Future award for best first work. The film follows Naraya Kamble, a social activist who is charged with inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide through one of his songs.


Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement
Showing: Madinat Theatre. Monday December 15, 9pm
Mall Of The Emirates. Wednesday December 17, 2.45pm
Powerhouse performances from Dorval, as widowed, working-class mother Diane, Antoine Olivier Pilon, who plays her troubled 15-year-old son, Steve, and Clement, who appears as their mysterious neighbour Kyla, saw the latest effort from Quebecois prodigy Xavier Dolan scoop the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The 25-year-old director explores the intense relationship between a mother and son struggling to cope in the aftermath of grief.


ART HOUSE FLICKS Films with small budgets and big hearts

The Goob
Director: Guy Myhill
Cast: Liam Walpole, Sienna Guillory
Showing: Mall Of The Emirates. Thursday December 11, 6pm; Saturday December 13, 6.30pm
Newcomer Liam Walpole, who stars in this languid drama set in Norfolk in England, was unemployed before he bumped into the casting director on his local street and found himself with a leading role in a movie. Walpole plays Goob, an aimless teen who spends his summer days helping his mum at her roadside burger bar, and avoiding her menacing boyfriend, played by The Borgias star Sean Harris.


Director: Paul Bettany
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Mackie
Showing: Madinat Theatre. Friday December 12, 8.15pm
Mall Of The Emirates, Sunday December 14, 3pm
British actor Bettany, who played opposite Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, makes his directorial debut with Shelter, which stars his wife Jennifer Connelly as Hannah, a heroin addict living on the streets of New York. Hannah is contemplating suicide until an unexpected relationship with Tahir, a homeless illegal immigrant from Lagos, gives her hope.

Shelter - Paul Bettany


Trip Along Exodus
Director: Hind Shoufani.
Showing: Mall Of The Emirates. Friday December 12, 8.30pm
Mall Of The Emirates. Monday December 15, 9.30pm
Trip Along Exodus gives voice to a man who opposed the mainstream policies of settlement that Yasser Arafat adopted in the early 1980s. Outspoken and forthright, Shoufani was at the forefront of a violent split within the Fatah movement that erupted in 1983, with the Syrian-backed faction attempting to end Arafat’s vice-like grip on the PLO. Joined by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Palestinian communists headquartered in Damascus, the Fatah rebels denounced Arafat’s mainstream PLO as corrupt and willing to sell out the Palestinian cause for their own gain. The rebellion led to several years of open conflict and to Shoufani’s 20-year opposition to Arafat.