Egyptian film critic Samir Farid
The Dubai International Film Festival opened on Friday, promising a strong selection of Arabic-language feature films and documentaries, among them the award-winning Palestinian movie "Omar". Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett and
Martin Sheen attended the opening of the festival, kicking off with a screening of Hany Abu Assad's "Omar", the first-ever Palestinian film to be tipped for an Oscar.
The enthusiastically-received tale of love and betrayal in the Israeli-occupied territories received a jury prize in the "Un Certain Regard" category -- a closely-watched category for provocative films or follow-up works by emerging directors -- at the Cannes festival.
Abu Assad shot to prominence in 2006 with "Paradise Now", about two would-be suicide bombers.
A total of 174 films from 57 different countries, including over 100 films from the Arab world, will be screened at the festival running until December 14.
Arab films are in competition for the Muhr awards and include Egypt's "Factory Girl" by Muhamed Khan that explores sexism through events in the life of a young female factory worker.
Among them is also Moroccan feature film "Rock the Casbah" by Laila Marrakchi with veteran Egyptian actor Omar Sharif in the cast, in addition to other Arab stars including Hiam Abbas and Lubna Azabal.
Syrian filmmaker Mohamad Malas's movie which was shot in his homeland as conflict raged all around, "Ladder to Damascus", will also be screened in Dubai.
Film festivals in the Gulf region have replaced more established festivals in Cairo and Damascus as the major industry events in the region due to political unrest in Egypt and Syria.
Now in its 10th edition, "we see the fruits of our labours over the past decade: we have seen the variety and calibre of the films in our Arab and Asia-Africa Muhr competitions grow exponentially year on year," said Abdulhamid Juma, chairman of the Dubai festival.