Books of The Times: Tina Brown’s ‘Vanity Fair Diaries’ Recall a Glossier Time

Brown’s new book is an edited version of the diaries she kept while presiding over the high-powered magazine at a time when editors still had time and money to burn.
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Books of The Times: In Alan Bennett’s Diaries, Life’s Pleasures Alongside Civic Outrage

“Keeping On Keeping On” collects the British playwright’s diaries from 2005 to 20015, which include his thoughts on everything from pigeons to politics.
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What They Watch: The TV Diaries of Chicago Med Star Torrey Devitto

What They Watch: The TV Diaries of Torrey DevittoWelcome to the second installment of E! News’ newest weekly feature, What They Watch, a profile of those working in TV and their TV loves and habits both past and present.
It’s…

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Did the Epic TV Love Triangle Die With The Vampire Diaries?

The Vampire Diaries, The Vampire Diaries season 1The Vampire Diaries left us on Friday, and it took one of TV’s biggest love triangles with it.
Elena (Nina Dobrev) may have chosen Damon (Ian Somerhalder) over his brother Stefan…

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Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev and The Vampire Diaries Cast Pen Emotional Farewell Posts on Finale Night

The Vampire Diaries, The Vampire Diaries season 1Time truly flies when you are having fun.
When Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev and The Vampire Diaries cast first started filming the series back in 2009, nobody could have predicted just…

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Heartbreaking Death Rocks ‘The Vampire Diaries’ Series Finale

Warning: Spoilers ahead for “The Vampire Diaries” series finale, “I Was Feeling Epic.”

The Vampire Diaries” showrunner Julie Plec told The Huffington Post that she and co-creator Kevin Williamson wanted the series finale to be both open-ended and set in stone, and after watching the episode unfurl, they accomplished just that. 

The finale, titled “I Was Feeling Epic,” was a heartbreaker, as former characters came back to say their final farewells, including Elena (Nina Dobrev), who was finally able to reunite with her one true love, Damon (Ian Somerhalder), after Bonnie figured out how to reverse the curse linking her life to Elena’s.

But the biggest, most devastating blow came when it was revealed that Stefan (Paul Wesley) made the ultimate sacrifice in order for his brother to have that epic reunion with Elena. He gave up a life with his new wife Caroline (Candice King) to give Damon, Elena, and his loved ones happiness. 

“We’ve had people die and come back to life, but there’s no coming back [now],” Wesley told HuffPost ahead of the finale. “This is the final episode, so whoever dies here is dead. I think that’s the difference.” 

The finale wrapped up many storylines, including the fate of all the couples. Although Bonnie and Enzo (Michael Malarkey), as well as Caroline and Stefan, don’t end up together, it’s known that, one day, they’ll be reunited again. Damon and Elena, however, tie the knot and live happily ever after, as humans ― eventually reuniting with their families. Bonnie travels; Matt stays in Mystic Falls; Alaric (Matthew Davis) and Caroline raise their girls; all is well. 

As for whether or not a spinoff or revival could be a possibility, Plec won’t rule it out. The show alluded to the idea that Caroline and Klaus (Joseph Morgan) could reunite, as he donated millions to the newly opened Salvatore boarding school. 

“I can’t make any promises for many reasons: One, because we don’t have a fifth season of ‘The Originals.’ Two, because while I love the world of the boarding school and all that it represents, that would be an entirely new show that I haven’t even begun to think about, but the doors were not left open unintentionally,” Plec told Entertainment Weekly

“I don’t have that plan right now,” she told HuffPost of a future “TVD” installment, “it’s just something that’s always living in the back of my brain as a future opportunity.” 

For now, we say so long, Mystic Falls. But, perhaps, we’ll see you again soon. 

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The Berlinale 2017 Diaries: Finding Cinematic Heroes or Maybe Just the Brave

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Courage redefined is a prevailing theme at this year’s Berlinale.

Or perhaps I’m noticing it more in films as I search for my own definition of the word, and the quality. Courage being what is needed in uncertain times and I don’t mean the kind that turns men into heroes. Those are burst of courage, while I am seeking the long distance run, garden variety kind of braveness that can be sustained throughout this baffling moment in our world history. Along with music, art, film and incredibly touching performances by some world-class actors, I’ve also discovered true grit at Berlinale.

Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest

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Filmmaker Katja Gauriloff hails from Lapland and she is a proud descendant of Finland’s indigenous Skolt Sami tribe. In her latest film Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest, Gauriloff — beautifully and poetically — explores her roots, through stories about her great-grandmother Kaisa, as told in the travel writing of the Swiss Robert Crottet and the images of Spanish photographer Enrique Mendez. In person Katja is the younger, modern splitting image of her great-grandmother, possessing all the quiet courage of her ancestor, as well as her hauntingly beautiful eyes. Eyes that tell a story of displacement post-WWII at the hands of both the Russians and the Finnish government. Eyes that through displacement have found a resilience within.

Lets face it, indigenous people the world over have always suffered and will continue to suffer until we mobilize to stop the worldwide injustice instead of concentrating on the “cause célèbre” of the day. When people hold up banners that say “Refugees Welcome!” I think, well, where are you when Native lands are torn away from the very people who have owned them for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years? Where is the public outrage for those who lost and continue to lose their home? Saving the world begins by saving just one person — start with your neighbor. The refugee crisis is caused by a wave of displacement, so the logical solution is helping a person, a family, a people to find stability in their homeland, before that crisis begins.

Gauriloff’s film provided me with one new definition of courage found within the idea of resilience, but also friendship and cultural bridge-building. Kaisa’s story has been told because of Crotter’s writing and Mendez’s images, and without that lifetime friendship we would have never been able to cherish this beautiful work of cinematic art.

Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest screens in the NATIVe program.

Newton

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From Finland to India, to the jungle of Chhattisgarh in Central India to be exact. Newton by Amit V. Masurkar is a touching, personal and very human film about the strength of one very resolute rookie election clerk to uphold the democratic process in a rebel-threatened area. The title character, played by the charismatic beyond belief (both on the screen and in person) Rajkummar Rao, fights so powerfully and persistently to allow a village of barely 70 inhabitants to vote that his efforts become farcical. And magically cinematic in the process.

Newton as a man is another impersonation of courage. Rao plays him straightforward and nearly monotone and somehow manages to weave within that a romantic hero-like quality. But characters that shine beyond their role in society is a specialty of the Shahid award-winning actor. Masurkar is also a master at downplaying, which of course only exalts the audience, able to draw its own conclusions. There are lots of funny moments in Newton but its true beauty lies in the burst of human truths it tells so powerfully, and the characters surrounding the story which are well-rounded and honestly played. I wouldn’t be surprised if the film made a big splash around the world, at this time when we’re perhaps no longer taking democracy for granted.

Newton screens in the Forum section.

Red Dog: True Blue

We often forget that the reason we love cinema today is because our parents showed us movies when we were children. And every once in a while, I find I need to reconnect to stories that talk about the world from the viewpoint of kids. Red Dog: True Blue is a wonderful new Australian film that did just that for me, brought me back to my childhood years. But to call it a children’s film would be doing filmmaker Kriv Stenders an injustice because it is pure true family entertainment and a movie everyone can agree to watch together, the young and old, the pure and the jaded.

Based on the legend of Red Dog, and on the writing of Daniel Taplitz, who also penned the original Red Dog film, this installment is more of an origins tale than a sequel. In fact, it tells the story of young Mick who is shipped off to his grandfather’s cattle station in Western Australia and there finds a connection with a wolf-like strange dog he calls Blue. Actually, at times Blue, especially when the camera closes in on his eyes, looks eerily like the Berlinale bear! But I digress. Red Dog: True Blue is also a tale that encourages reconnecting to the inner child, to find serenity in life.

I loved hearing stories about the screening of the film in Berlin from both the filmmaker, his lead actor Jason Isaacs (who plays Mick as an adult) and their publicist. The excitement was palpable and there is no better — and more honest — audience than one filled with children. They won’t let you get away with anything less than perfectly wonderful. Which of course, this film is.

Red Dog: True Blue screens in Generation Kplus.

Dream Boat

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As someone who grew up watching The Love Boat on TV, a film that talks about an all-male gay cruise ship sailing through a sea of fun and human stories sounds like a dream project. And when I finally watched Dream Boat, I found within its poignancy and truthful story a real gem. Tristan Ferland Milewski weaves a portrait of homosexual men who are all searching for their very own, personal definition of love. Dipankar, an account manager from India but living in Dubai yearns for normalcy in a gay relationship, while Martin, a photographer from Vienna living with HIV finds comfort in a more flamboyant lifestyle. Ramzi, a student from Palestine, has found a haven and a lifelong partner he stands by through thick and thin by relocating to Belgium, while the Polish fitness trainer Marek seems more alienated after moving to Nottingham and takes his sadness on the cruise. All the while, accountant Philippe from France watches it all serenely from his wheelchair.

There is a lot to adore about Dream Boat, its truthful telling of these men’s tales but also the way they are photographed at their best, and sometimes at their most demoralized. For me, the true genius of Milewski’s film lies in the way he singlehandedly destroys the differences that we think divide the heterosexual experience from those of the members of the LGBT community.

In Dream Boat he shows us once and for all that each of us needs, craves and wants the same thing: Someone to love us, for exactly who we are.

Dream Boat is part of the Panorama Dokumente section.

The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov

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In May of 2014 Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was arrested by Russian authorities for suspected terrorist activity. Today, he is serving a 20-year sentence in a Siberian jail. But his crime isn’t that for which he’s been convicted. He is being punished for never recognizing the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, for providing aid during the Crimean crisis, and for participating in the AutoMaidan movement. His lawyers, his family and his supporters worldwide know this to be the truth.

Now audience at the Berlinale will be able to make up their own mind and perhaps find their own answers in The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov, a documentary about Sentsov’s trial by Uzbeki-Russian director Askold Kurov. The Trial is perhaps the most important piece of filmmaking you could watch at Berlinale, because it provides a dramatic, yet traumatically real glimpse into how far a dictatorship will go to eliminate courage. Courage in this case is art, and Sentsov seems like a really unfortunate scapegoat of the times. It is probably his visibility, unlike we usually see in political thrillers, that messed him up and caused his incarceration. He was visible, he was worldly, the filmmaking community adored and admired him, and this was a threat to an unfair policy.

The Trial follows the everyday life of the court appearances by Sentsov himself but also the lives of those around him. His kids, his mother and his cousin, who all suffer through the uncertainty and the injustice. Unfairly accused, riddled with the lies thrown at him, Sentsov breaks out in laughter when the verdict is read, perhaps forever redefining true courage for me.

The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov is screening as a Berlinale Special.

All photos courtesy of the Berlinale, used with permission.

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The Pitti Uomo 91 Diaries: Stefano Ricci, Concept Korea, and Photos from the Fashion Front Lines

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As soon as I met British war photographer Guy Martin, my view of fashion here at Pitti Uomo changed. There is something incredibly powerful, a spark alive in those who report from the front lines, and combined with the natural kindness photographers possess, Martin immediately dissolved all my natural defenses. Not to mention that when I started to see the menswear fashion arena through his eyes, I realized that it too is a war zone of sorts, a battle for who can make the world more stylish, and conquer the most fashionista hearts. More on Martin a bit later, but first things first. Starting from the kickoff show of the day for me, the Concept Korea event.

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Concept Korea: Bmuet(te) and Ordinary People, and kimchi wings.

As soon as the Bmuet(te) men, and women, started to walk down the worn-out cobblestones runway of the Dogana in Florence, I felt like Neo had found his Darcy-like counterpart, in a next installment of the Matrix set in Victorian England. I loved the black to grey to white color palette, and once my eyes stopped concentrating on the endless cool details — like Elizabethan-style collars, strings hanging from shirts like those worn by Orthodox Jews and those gorgeous flat lens sunglasses — I realized the full cinematic impact of the collection. To say that I loved the womenswear influences used for menswear here would be an understatement. Extra-long sleeves, Victorian rounded shoulders and even skirts for men were all phenomenal, especially because each look could be — and at times was — worn by women too. I think Bryung-mun Seo and Ji-na Um are my new fashion idols.

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Ordinary People by Hyeong-cheol Jang also required a period of adjustment on my part, once his more colorful-dressed models started sliding down the runway. After viewing so much black and white, the studded black palazzo pants in velvet and poet shirt in what Benjamin Moore calls “Corlsbud Canyon” orange needed a deep breath from yours truly. But heeding the advice of the beautiful Andie MacDowell, who made us all breathe during a recent interview in Dubai, I found myself inhaling and exhaling deeply, only to discover that Ordinary People had some of the same themes I’d loved so much in the previous brand. Black velvet suits with cropped tight trousers, pearl studded sweaters and even a bright varnish green leather jacket could all be unisex. And although I’ll skip the Ed Snowden look sported by some of the male models, I may just become a new Ordinary People customer too. Plus, you gotta love the name, of my favorite film growing up, directed by Robert Redford!

Class act alert: The Concept Korea presentation ended with a wonderful snack of kimchi wings and Korean sushi, to be washed down with a special cocktail, framed by a slice of pineapple.

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Guy Martin and the impossibility of living down one’s incredible act of resilience.

When I interviewed photojournalist Guy Martin, I tried to avoid bringing up the 2011 deadly attack which resulted in Tim Hetherington’s and Chris Hondros’ death, and left Martin seriously injured and in the care of Libyan doctors. But although when meeting Martin today one could never imagine what the young photographer has been through, there is a depth to his persona, a wonderfully refreshing calm about him that points to the kind of person who has survived a great deal. It’s impossible, I think, to separate the man from the photojournalist, and that photojournalist, who went through so much and still manages to entertain a conversation with a man at a party who wants to talk selling Swedish underwear to Saudi customers. Yes, I witnessed Martin kindly engage as one business owner tried to pick his brain — as a photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East — for enticing customers from Saudi Arabia to his brand.

But meeting Martin also made me look at fashion differently, particularly the shows. We stand in lines outside in the cold for up to an hour, awaiting to be let into this magical world where in five minutes we watch a presentation and then it’s all gone. Armies of fashionistas pose with serious, at times threatening faces while photographers capture their looks, and models reach the “front lines” of photographers at the end of the catwalk eager to shoot the perfect shot of them. Shoot, front lines, armies of fashionistas, the lingo doesn’t stray far from war terms you see.

But much more on Martin and his project with Pitti Immagine, through a collaboration with nineteensixtyeight, in a full interview to follow next week.

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Stefano Ricci: A timeless designer presents his perfectly classic line inside an iconic fashion room.

Perhaps it was the gods of fashion that allowed me to view Stefano Ricci‘s presentation for a select few lucky members of the press, inside the iconic Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti. Or maybe it was a great combination of professional publicists who managed to squeeze me in and find me a seat in the front row of this spectacle of beauty, style and ageless class. Whatever the cause, I felt like I experienced fashion history in the making. The Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti is where the Made in Italy brand started, back in 1952. And the setting hasn’t be utilized for fashion shows since 1982. So it was only natural that a legendary menswear brand from Florence should re-christen the venue so important for Italian fashion, on their own 45th Anniversary celebration.

Adding to the magic of the day, I went to watch the Stefano Ricci runway show with Guy Martin and knowing he was in the photographers’ pit made me look at the event through different eyes. In fact, I took this shot of one of the little boys who showed along with the adults, and saw him in all his vulnerability as he walked away from the clicks of the cameras. A bit shaken for the wear yet still incredibly professional for his age.

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The collection was of course phenomenal. Full of what men really want to wear, to the office, on an evening out, to a gala, and even on their days off — Stefano Ricci represents iconic Italian style. And the fact that real men, some with grey hair and all possessing their own individual style and gait, showed the clothes only made the experience more wonderful. Oh, and someone said the room was decorated with 30,000 white roses, lining walls and nestled in giant vases. Thirty thousand, wrap your head around that!

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PS by Paul Smith, because a man needs to be able to wear a suit while riding a bike!

The PS by Paul Smith presentation saw us all walking through a pink neon lit doorway crowned by the designer’s famous initial. Quintessential Paul Smith of course. But once inside, what awaited the fashion crowds were street wearable clothing pieces, like light reflecting windbreakers and suits that could be worn by everyday working guys, who ride their bikes to the office and don’t want to worry about looking like the male equivalent of Bridget Jones at her worst upon arrival.

Smith is smart, as he is kind, and he knows his customer whom I believe likes to look good, but also be practical. Details have always been the best the designer has to offer, from his quintessentially colorful suit linings to the way his hems are stitched and this collection of active wear, for lack of a better term, is no exception. Plus, the dancers, acrobats and all around cool guys showing off the line made me yearn to go dancing.

Innocence and fragility by Chabaud, a classic scent.

Between shows, I felt like I needed a moment of zen. And I always find the best relaxation in scents. So I visited the Hi Beauty section of the Pitti Uomo fair, inside the Fortezza da Basso and headed for a stand I’d briefly stopped by the day before. Sophie Chabaud is the “nose” of Chabaud, a Maison de parfum from Montpellier and she kindly showed me around the line. I found respite in their “Innocente Fragilité”, a white flower scent made of a blend of jasmine, orange blossom and gardenia. OK, time to get back to work now.

Most images courtesy of Pitti Immagine, used with permission.

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Summer and the City (the Carrie Diaries, Book 2)

Summer and the City (the Carrie Diaries, Book 2)


Meet teenage Carrie Bradshaw as she hits the bright lights, big city of New York for the very first time! Find out how Carrie transforms from country girl to super-cool fashionista in the second explosive CARRIE DIARIES novel from the globally bestselling author of SEX AND THE CITY. Summer is a magical time in New York City and Carrie is in love with all of it – the crazy characters in her neighbourhood, the vintage-clothing boutiques, the wild parties and the glamorous man who has swept her off her feet. Best of all, she’s finally in a real writing class, taking her first steps toward fulfilling her dream. This sequel to THE CARRIE DIARIES brings surprising revelations as Carrie learns to navigate her way around the Big Apple, going from being a country “sparrow” – as Samantha Jones dubs her – to the person she always wanted to be. But as it becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile her past with her future, Carrie realises that making it in New York is much more complicated than she ever imagined. With her signature wit and sparkling humour, Candace Bushnell reveals the irresistible story of how Carrie met Samantha and Miranda, and what turned a small-town girl into one of the New York City’s most unforgettable icons, Carrie Bradshaw.

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The Dubai Film Festival Diaries: A Classy End to a Life-Changing Event

2016-12-17-1481972147-7016000-img.jpg OK, I’ll just preface this by saying that were the majority of film reviews written by women, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story would never have been made. I’m probably a Star Trek girl through and through because I like a little reflection to go along with my entertainment. Not a whole lot of references to things I know nothing about nor want to particularly find out. But more on the film that closed this year’s Dubai International Film Festival later in the blog.

The reason that DIFF exists and just celebrated its glorious thirteenth edition is primarily to showcase and support the ever-growing Arab cinema industry. Yet we all know that a festival without international stars, great world premieres and exclusive parties would not be on anyone’s radar for very long. And this year, DIFF brought to Dubai Hollywood royalty like Andie MacDowell and Samuel L. Jackson, HBO’s Westworld stars Jeffrey Wright and Luke Hemsworth, filmmaker extraordinaire Asif Kapadia, world-class composer Gabriel Yared and Indian superstars of past, present and future Rekha, Om Puri and Ranveer Singh. Along with of course the great auteurs from the Region like Yousry Nasrallah and Magdy Ahmed Aly, as well as world festival favorites like Hedi by Mohamed Ben Attia and Layla M. by Mijke De Jong. The red carpets were plentiful, the atmosphere electrifying and the result of the seven days and eight nights was a festival like no other — where media, filmmakers and audiences alike could enjoy the beauty of Dubai and absorb as much cinema as their appetite allowed.

As I waited one morning to interview Jeffrey Wright and Luke Hemsworth about Westworld, I listened in on their conversation with other members of the media. I have loved Wright’s honest acting since I watched him in Julian Schnabel‘s Basquiat and I follow his blunt yet so needed Tweets on social media. The man doesn’t dwindle around serious issues. For example, see below.


So, I did what I did back in Berlin with Gianfranco Rosi, at the beginning of his journey with his documentary Fire at Sea — I used the waiting time to color my interview. The host of the Arabic version of a well-known US entertainment TV magazine asked Wright if he could say a few words in Arabic, and Wright admitted that he’d learned some Arabic twenty years ago and at that time “I learned to love Umm Kulthum then, I love her music!” It was warming to hear him say those words as the Egyptian singing legend has become for me inseparable from this Region. Everywhere I go, be it a shop in a mall, a restaurant or even at gala events, her haunting voice is the soundtrack of Dubai, and beyond.

When he was asked about the recent US election, Wright also managed to put into words what we’ve all been feeling by saying, “America is going through an interesting phase right now. I think it’s going to be an interesting next few years.” Most of us have been feeling like the real work begins now and hearing Wright address that by pointing out that the election had brought out “a real awakening of people who are concerned about tolerance and social justice all the things that the results of this election seem to have cast aside,” made me hopeful. He finally added, “America is a big country. And we’re stronger than any one person. America is really not defined by its presidents, it’s defined by its people. At the end of the day I hope we become a better country and progress forward. I’m hopeful that at the end of the day we’ll keep progressing forward as we have.”

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When the time came for his co-star Luke Hemsworth, the young Australian actor wasn’t as lucky with his questions. “Do you feel bad that you’re the shortest of all the Hemsworth brothers?” The host chimed in. I am often baffled by the complete lack of any class in TV journalism. Not that print media is that much better, but at least we have a time delay from when we formulate stupid questions to when we actually transcribe the interview to realize the errors of our ways… Anyway, Hemsworth was kind, and quick on his feet. “They stole all my food when I was growing up!” He replied, and I secretly giggled, at the TV host, while clapping inside for the star.

I’d come to DIFF really craving to finally meet in person Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya, as well as watch on the big screen, where it belongs, their masterpiece creation The Cinema Travellers. Back when the film premiered in Cannes, their publicist and our common friend had sent me a link to watch the documentary and write a little something about it. Sitting in my favorite corner of my apartment, holding their jewel of a film in my hands, I felt like I had just been handed a gift. My world became part of theirs for nearly 100 minutes, and I was immersed in the wonderful joy of cinematic magic. But watching it then in Dubai, on the big screen where most films belong, was like discovering a whole new film within The Cinema Travellers, like finding new visual and emotional clues that I could never have imagined on the screen of my laptop. And meeting Abraham and Madheshiya in person finally solved the puzzle of how such a beautiful film could ever have been made… It took two beautiful human beings, that’s how!

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DIFF this year was also about fashion. For me, the festival always holds its finger on the pulse of what Dubai fashionistas are wearing, but for its thirteenth edition, they went one step further. While people lined up for the Middle East premiere of the Will Smith starrer Collateral Beauty, we were all treated to a fashion show on the red carpet, organized by the Dubai Design District, also known as D3, and Fashion Forward Dubai. Five designers who create and sell in the Region — Zareena, Amato, Michael Cinco, Ezra and Hussein Bazaza — presented their evening looks in front of DIFF Managing Director Shivani Pandya, the Executive Director of Operations Mahsa Motamedi and yours truly, all sitting in the privileged front row. I loved the flavor of fashion on the red carpet, this time even overshadowing the celebrities and the films for a few minutes. But of course, I always feel fashion provides the perfect frame to cinema and art.

There was also an announcement during this year’s festival that felt like the right thing at just the right time. As the shortlist for the Foreign Language Academy Awards seems to have completely ignored cinema from the MENA region this year, the Arab Film Institute will hopefully step in. A new entity that promises to “promote, inspire, preserve, educate, support, influence and engage Arab film professionals under one roof,” the AFI has brought together producers, filmmakers, political figures and critics to create a database that may eventually give birth to an award platform for the Middle East, from the Middle East and within the Middle East.

Of course, there was cinema at DIFF, films to satiate even the hungriest of cinema goer. For me, the event closed with two works, one I loved, and one I could really have lived without.

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Magdi Ahmed Ali’s Mawlana (The Preacher) felt to me like it should have been named “The Prophet” since on the day it premiered it hauntingly foretold of the day’s events. Mawlana tells the story of a moderate Imam, a religious leader followed and beloved by those around him, yet whose tolerant views are being challenged every day, by what happens in the world. It doesn’t hurt that the film stars Egyptian actor Amr Saad in the lead role and his charisma and restrained demeanor as Sheikh Hatem El Shennawi really sell the film to the audience. But perhaps most haunting for me was discovering the scene of a Coptic Christian church bombing which had just occurred before the film’s red carpet, sending chills up my spine. When a beautiful, touching film has that prophetic feel to it, I can’t help but find it a winner.

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So now onto DIFF’s closing night film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This felt like an overdrawn, too dark and too full of references to things I know nothing about, video game. Granted, if you are a huge Star Wars fans it will be a treat to find Peter Cushing resurrected by CGI as the Imperial Officer Grand Moff Tarkin from the 1977 original Star Wars: A New Hope. Thrilling? Well it would have been if the 3D glasses I found on my seat weren’t used and therefore smudged beyond what any cleaning could do to them and the images of Cushing felt inconsistent throughout. His presence didn’t do it for me. I get it that Star Wars fans will celebrate anything to do with the franchise, from T-shirts (even I had to get an overpriced one of Darth Vader dressed as an Arab dictator) to merchandise to yes, tired old films. But what is up with Felicity Jones and those constant “meaningful” looks she shoots at her co-stars? Having just watched her in The Tempest, I can’t say her acting has gotten any better with age. And don’t get me started on Diego Luna, a brilliant actor who is completely miscast here. His accent gives Captain Cassian Andor a Speedy Gonzales feel I just could not get over and I giggled each time he opened his mouth. I did like Riz Ahmed, but I’ve liked him in each and every role he’s played since The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Am I being PC about this? Probably not, but I haven’t felt this strongly about how much I hated a film in a long, long while… Yes, the red carpet with the Chewbacca crew was fun, but other than that, as I said, I’m a Trekkie through and through.

Finally, a thank you to the festival, its organizers and the publicists who made my life so perfectly organized and pleasant for the past week or so. This edition of the Dubai International Film Festival was indeed a “Lucky 13” one for me and receiving the thank you note that I’ve posted as the header image of this piece, the day after DIFF ended, was the cherry on the cake. From the opening gala and party to the closing night film and big bash, with a live soundtrack provided by the Reyes Heritage (the sons of the Gypsy Kings) there wasn’t a dull moment or a sour note for Dubai, throughout. And the logo created by local designer Ash Chagla of Science Sunshine proved to bring just as much luck as it promised.

Till next year DIFF, from December 6th to the 13th, 2017 — Inshallah.

Red carpet and portraits photos by Getty Images, all courtesy of DIFF, used with permission.

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The Dubai Film Festival Diaries: ‘Their Finest’, Thierry Frémaux’s ‘Lumière!’ and Yousry Nasrallah

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During the superabundance of interesting meetings, star-filled junkets and glamorous parties that make up the Dubai international Film Festival, at times I forget the most important part of this event — the films! It’s the reason why I’m here, why we are all here in fact, audiences, filmmakers and media from around the world alike.

But on my second day at DIFF I caught up on a lot of films I’d been craving to watch, like Their Finest, a moving British drama starring Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy, Thierry Frémaux’s fantastically curated Lumière! presentation and Yousry Nasrallah’s Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces.

Nothing like sitting in a dark movie theater, with the glow of the big screen warming my heart to make the world seem right again.

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With Their Finest, a film I watched in the isolated comfort of a press screening, it was a case of the perfect storm. A film made by a woman filmmaker, Lone Scherfig, about a female screenwriter (played by Gemma Arterton) who writes propaganda films during WWII in London. It’s a phenomenally ripe time to be talking about the undeniable power of cinema and how good, positive messages empower while violence only adds to the chaos. I found myself cheering silently for the film, for its characters and at one pivotal moment in the story, I sobbed out loud. Their Finest is that good, that satisfying, that important at this point in time, that well made. More interviews with the cast and those working behind the scenes to come, from DIFF.

Now onto Thierry Frémaux’s labor of love Lumière!, a documentary about the French inventors of cinema, as pretty much we know it today — Auguste and Louis Lumière. Through a series of short, silent films that were shot between 1895 and 1905 by the Lumière brothers, Frémaux shows a world that is at once past, present and future.

The wondrous treat that audiences get when they watch Lumière! is a live commentary by Monsieur Cannes himself. The artistic director of the largest movie festival in the world sat inside the Jumeirah Theater, his chair facing the screen and shared insight, disclosed little known facts and took the audience on an important, yet utterly fun, cinematic journey. What he called, a “door into the Lumière world”, these ten films, having gone through a 4K restauration are at the best they’ve been since their creation. They are “in a shape we’ve never seen them in the past,” gushed Frémaux during the screening. While the Lumière brothers came in the midst of the invention process that made cinema possible, which started with Thomas Edison, they won it in a technological way, by creating the best machine, but also by imagining the most creative way to watch films, from within an audience, making it utterly social. A quality Frémaux calls “very French!”

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With Yousry Nasrallah’s latest Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces, his highly anticipated return since the 2012 After the Battle, a personal favorite, I found myself as participant to a great banquet of “love, food, freedom and dignity,” as Nasrallah himself proclaimed to kick off the screening. In fact, I felt as if his film started where our last interview left off. “I love to cook, you know you cook and you get the same kind of response you get for a movie! It’s good, it’s delicious, it’s wonderful, or it’s lousy. Come to Cairo, I’ll cook you lunch,” he said, back in 2013. Brooks is that banquet, with a larger than life group of people who infused my senses and grabbed my attention from the very first frame. To say that I adore Nasrallah, is an understatement. His treatment of women in the movies is unique, not only because he intrinsically respects our gender, but because he gets our sensuality, our joie de vivre, our need for a connection — down to a T. Again, more to come on his film in later blogs.

All images courtesy of DIFF, used with permission.

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