DIFF 2009 unveiled a glittering lineup of movies

The Dubai International Film Festival plans to stage its sixth edition this year despite the emirate being in financial meltdown and stock markets across the globe plummeting amid exposure to its debt crisis.

The president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa, issued a statement through the state news agency backing Dubai's leadership. But organizers of the film festival were reticent in coming up with a statement with organizers, declining comment at time of going to press. It is unclear whether this year's event would be affected by the current turmoil.

Putting on a positive front early Tuesday, festival organizers unveiled a glittering lineup of movies, including James Cameron's "Avatar," enough to make other festivals blue with envy. The lineup also revealed that Gerard Butler will receive Variety's International Star of the Year award at the 2009 event.

Tony Award winner Rob Marshall's film version of the musical Nine will open the Dubai Film Festival on December 9, according to a report in Variety. The Festival continues through December 16 and will close with the regional premiere of James Cameron's Avatar.

Fest opener "Nine" depicts a director's midlife crisis and a series of complicated romantic entanglements and stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren. Other programmed movies include the world premiere of "City of Life," a multilingual emirati film from Ali F. Mostafa, and Indian superstar Ranbir Kapoor's "Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year." Cameron's "Avatar" will provide a big event to close the festival.

Also listed in the lineup is "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" and Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child" starring Naomi Watts, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington and Shareeka Epps.

Fest’s Muhr prize for Arab cinema -- originally launched in 2006 with the ambition to become the premier showcase in the world for Arab filmmakers -- has managed to bring together a stellar lineup.

Among the competish contenders are Egyptian helmer Kamla Zekry’s “One-Zero,” Arab-American filmmaker Cherien Dabis’ “Amreeka” and French-Arab director Nassim Amaouche’s “Adieu Gary.”

Palestinian helmer Michel Khleifi’s “Zindeeq” receives its world preem at the fest as does Emirati filmmaker Ali Mostafa’s “City of Life.”

Organizers are rolling out the red carpet for Mostafa, who has previously won the Emirati Filmmaker prize at the fest and has long been seen as the Emirati helmer most likely to break out internationally. Mostafa’s film, which finished principal photography in mid-March, takes its name from the English translation of Dubai’s oldest nickname. The multi-lingual, multi-stranded character-driven drama follows the intersecting lives of a privileged young Emirati, an Indian taxi driver and Romanian flight attendant all living in the bustling emirate.

Elsewhere, Indian acting icon Amitabh Bachchan will receive a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to cinema as part of the fest’s honoree program. Previous recipients have included Morgan Freeman, Egyptian superstar Adel Imam as well as Indian uber-producer Yash Chopra.

Fest is also hosting a sidebar of French pics in its In Focus section. Among the pics selected are helmer Laurent Vinas-Raymond’s “I Forgot to Tell You,” starring Omar Sharif, and Francois Ozon’s “Le Refuge”

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) 2009 has tuned into the shifting media trends by bonding with traditional as well as digital media with more than ten leading publishers, television channels and digital companies on board as Media Partners this year.

In a path-breaking movie, DIFF 2009 has redefined its media outlook with a strong digital media component while continuing its partnership with print and audio-visual outlets.

This year, DIFF has on board AMG; DMI; France 24; Good News Cinema; Gulf News; Ahlan!; MBC; Google Youtube; Zee TV; E-Vision; Variety the international premier source of entertainment news; Emirates Neon Group and Orbit Showtime as media partners.

DIFF’s Director of Marketing and Sponsorship Mahsa Motamedi said the media plays a crucial role in effectively conveying the message of DIFF, ‘Bridging Cultures, Meeting Minds.’

“As is the norm at DIFF, we are moving in tune with the trends. This year too we have formed strong media partnerships, including new channels that reach out to a wider audience. DIFF is partnering with a good cross section of organisations, across all levels of media, to help us deliver our core messages regionally and internationally,” she added.

DIFF’s media partnerhips also highlight the growing interest of the global media in the festival, which is now regarded as the most definitive film festival in the Middle East, Afria and Asia.

Compared with 450 media registrations in the opening year, DIFF last year had 1,165 accredited media, from around the world, covering the event – an increase of over 150 percent. This has in turn translated to phenomenal growth in audience participation too – with the number of admissions growing by over 110 percent in the past five years.