Inside ADFF 2011
The 5th editiion of ADFF presented nearly 180 films, which were evenly divided between features and shorts. Films were selected from 45 countries and included 34 world premieres. Twelve films in the program were made by first-time feature-film directors. More than 550 volunteers worked hard to make the Festival a success. With 402 industry professionals and 781 accredited press from nearly 40 countries, and more than 35,000 Festival attendees, Abu Dhabi buzzed for ten days with the excitement that comes from embracing fresh cinema from every corner of the world. For the first time, in collaboration with Swiss Open Air, the Festival offered screenings at a new outdoor venue: the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr – on the world’s largest screen!
The ADFF 2011 lineup garnered a total of 10 Oscar nominations in 2012. These included the Festival’s Opening Night film, Canadian director Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar, and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, the Iranian film that went on to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Asghar Farhadi, who was named Variety’s Middle East Filmmaker of the Year, collected the Special Jury Award from ADFF, while the award for Best Narrative Film went to Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi.The Red Carpet shone with luminaries like Tilda Swinton and Michael Winterbottom, both of whom were honored with Career Excellence Awards, making appearances alongside leading talents from Arab cinema including Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Khaled Abol Naga, Bushra, Hend Sabry and Laila Eloui, as well as GCC stars like Dr. Habib Ghuloom, Haifa Hussein, Ghanem Al Sulaiti and Mohammed Al Mansour. Celebrated Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako also attended the Festival and discussed improvisation in cinema in an inspiring master class.
The Arab Spring upheavals were a central theme in many of the Festivals selections, with some of the first films to come out of the Egyptian revolution including the SANAD-funded Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad & the Politician, by Tamer Ezzat, Ayten Amin and Amr Salama, and 18 Days, by ten Egyptian directors. The Emirates Film Competition celebrated its 10th anniversary with a slate of films from across the Gulf Region; a stunning 50% of the awards in the competition were given to women filmmakers.
A particular Festival highlight was the screening of the newly restored, hand-colored version of Georges Méliès’s historic film A Trip To The Moon, accompanied by a new original soundtrack composed by the French band Air. Other Festival highlights included tributes to two Nobel winners for Literature: Naguib Mahfouz, Man Of Cinema, marked thecelebrated and much-loved author’s centenary; while Remembering Tagore celebrated the great Bengali poet’s 150th anniversary. In addition, a pair of special programs included the Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema series, which was presented in partnership with The Museum of Modern Art and ArteEast, as well as Spotlight on Sweden, with nine feature-length films including three of master director Ingmar Bergman’s best-loved films – Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries and Smiles of a Summer Night. The spotlight was presented in collaboration with the Swedish Film Institute, Swedish Institute and the Embassy of Sweden in Abu Dhabi.