December 9, 2005

Art films to get airing in Hollywood-fixated Dubai

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI (Reuters) - The Gulf Arab city of Dubai hosts its
second international film festival on Sunday, bringing a
refreshing cloudburst of world cinema to a region often seen as
a cultural desert.

The festival, in its second year, has fast become a venue
for new film-makers to try out movies on ethnically-mixed
audiences in this cosmopolitan city.

Center stage will be "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim
World," an already controversial movie directed by U.S.
comedian Albert Brooks which gets its world premiere on
December 15.

The film pokes fun at American ignorance of the Muslim
world, but its eye-catching title caused Sony to pass up the
chance to distribute it, Brooks has said, fearing reprisals
from Muslims in the West or the Islamic world.

Brooks plays a comedian sent by the U.S. State Department
to India and Pakistan to find out what makes Muslims laugh, so
everyone can get along better in the post-9/11 world.

It is set for U.S. release in January by Warner
Independent, the art-house unit of Warner Brothers.

Organisers say it is one of a series of films that cross
the cultural divide between the West and Arab-Muslim "East."

Hollywood crowd-pleasers are standard fare in Dubai, the
most liberal and cosmopolitan city in the conservative Gulf
region with a 1.5 million population of Europeans, Africans and
Asians. Art-house and challenging cinema rarely get a look in.

The week-long festival opens with "Paradise Now," which
examines the hopelessness that makes an ordinary Palestinian
want to kill himself in the struggle against Israeli

"It discusses those who we consider seekers of martyrdom
but who the West considers terrorists," programmer Masoud
Amralla told reporters last week. "It's a neutral film which
lets the public decide who is the terrorist and who isn't."

The festival includes a documentary about the
Israeli-backed Christian Lebanese Forces militia, which
massacred Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila camps in
1982. It shows interviews with six of the perpetrators with
their faces blacked out.

Screenings of the Dutch production, called Massaker, are
already nearly sold out.