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DFI scores ‘Idol’ as Ajyal opener – ‘Dheepan’, ‘Youth’ set for ME launches via Dubai Film Festival

A model displays a creation by Japanese designer Motohiro Tanji at the 2016 Spring/Summer collection show in Tokyo on Oct 14, during Tokyo Fashion Week. (AFP)
A model displays a creation by Japanese designer Motohiro Tanji at the 2016 Spring/Summer collection show in Tokyo on Oct 14, during Tokyo Fashion Week. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Oct 14, (RTRS): The Doha Film Institute has secured the Middle East premiere of Oscar-nommed Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s buzz title “The Idol” as the opener of the third edition of its Ajyal Youth Film Festival.

“The Idol,” the potent tale of how Palestinian pop singer Mohammed Assaf went from being a kid in a refugee camp in Gaza to winning the second season of “Arab Idol” in 2013 and thereafter was named a goodwill ambassador for peace by the United Nations, had its European preem at the London Film Festival last night, after bowing in Toronto in September to strong reviews.

“It’s a story everyone in this region knows,” said DFI topper Fatma Al Remain. “‘Idol’ is also a very good story about inspiration and hope and pursuing your dreams. So it’s a great message on which to open the festival,” she added.

Scoring “Idol” for Ajyal marks a nice coup for the DFI which co-financed the pic, boarding it when it was already in production. Produced by Ali Jafaar and Amira Diab, “Idol” could have launched in the region from the Middle East fest of its choice. It’s been widely sold, including Adopt Fils for the US.

Other Middle East preens launching from Ajyal, which is youth-oriented but broad in scope, include Jafar Panahi’s “Taxi,” which won this year’s Berlin Golden Bear; Danis Tanovic’s “Tigers,” about corporate greed and wrongdoing in the developing world; Nanni Moretti’s bereavement drama “My Mother”; and Lebanese dark comedy “Very Big Shot” by first time director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, who is a DFI grantee.

The third edition of Ajyal, which is conceptually similar to Italy’s Giffoni youth fest and has hundreds kids and adolescents as jurors, will run November 29-Dec 5 in Doha.

The Dubai Film Festival has lined up Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Dheepan” by Jacques Audiard; Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth”; Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The Assassin”; and John Crowley’s “Brooklyn,” among a dozen recent standout titles that will be launching into the Middle East from its Cinema of the World section in December.


The first batch of pics announced by the Dubai section dedicated to the creme of the global cinema crop also comprises Matthew Brown’s “The Man Who Knew Infinity” bio-pic about a self-taught mathematical genius from India; Columbian helmer Ciro Guerra’s adventure epic “Embrace of the Serpent”; Deepa Mehta’s gang war saga ‘Beeba Boys’; and Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new hypnotic pic “Cemetery of Splendour,” about a rural hospital volunteer who bonds with an infected soldier as he investigates an enigmatic sleeping sickness epidemic.

The selection by section topper Nashen Moodley aims to provide “an opportunity for audiences to gain a better understanding of a variety of cultures from across the globe,” Moodley said in a statement. The twelfth edition of Dubai will run Dec 9-16.

The Hindi-language “Pirates”, to be directed by debutant Rishi Raj More, fresh off the Drishyam Sundance Screenwriters Lab India and produced by “The Lunchbox” director Ritesh Batra’s Poetic Licence Motion Pictures will be pitched at Film Bazaar.

The annual co-production market in Goa (Nov 20-24), organised by India’s National Film Development Corporation, Monday, unveiled a total of 19 projects.

Others include Sinhala-language “Children of the Sun” by award winning Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage; Bengali-language “Memories and my Mother” by Aditya Vikram Sengupta who’s “Labour of Love” won best debut at Venice 2014 and at India’s National Film Awards; veteran Jahnu Barua’s “Unread Pages”; and “Bhavarth” by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar, who won the FIPRESCI award at Toronto 2009 for “The Man Beyond the Bridge”.

The market will also feature alumni from the recently concluded Busan Asian Project Market including Gitanjali Rao’s “Bombay Rose”, Nandita Das’ “Manto”, Kanu Behl’s Hindi “Agra” and Ritu Sarin’s Tibetan “The Sweet Requiem”.

Other projects include “Sulemani Keeda” director Amit V Masurkar’s Hindi “Newton”; “Katiyabaaz” filmmaker Fahad Mustafa’s Malayalam, Hindi and Arabic “A Goat’s Life”; Arun Karthick’s Tamil “Aasai Mugam”.

After four shorts Salil Jason Fernandez is looking to make his feature debut with Hindi and English language “Dhaar”; Canadian filmmaker Michael McNamara is expanding his 2004 documentary “Meet the Sumdees” into an English and Urdu feature; and M.S. Prakash Babu (“Fig Fruit and the Wasps”) returns to Film Bazaar with “Nigudha Manushyaru”.

After his “Peace Haven” played at Busan recently, Suman Ghosh returns with multi-lingual “The Poacher”, Mukti Krishnan bows with “Sandhya” and Joan Carr-Wiggin who’s “Love of my Life” is currently in post, comes to Goa with English and Hindi “Unromantic Woman”.

A superhero project is coming from Pixar later this year and no, it’s not an “Incredibles” sequel. “Sanjay’s Super Team” is a short attached to “The Good Dinosaur,” checking off a couple of firsts: the first Pixar film to center around Hindu deities, who are like the Avengers, and the first Pixar toon by a director of Indian descent.

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