Pan Arab road movie From A to B proves a crowd-pleaser on opening night of Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Emirati film director Ali Mostafa’s highly anticipated second film From A to B made for an upbeat opening night at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Oct 23-Nov 1) on Thursday.

Local buzz over the dramedy – the first Emirati feature to open the festival in its eight-year history – hit fever pitch prior to the premiere as film and media commentators speculated over whether the picture would make the grade.

ADFF director Ali Al Jabri and chief programmer Teresa Cavina were proved right in their choice, with the audience – consisting of local and international guests – laughing in all the right bits and giving the film a rousing round of applause at the end.

The pan-Arab road movie follows three pals - a Saudi, Egyptian and Syrian who met at an American school in Abu Dhabi - as they cross the Middle East to visit the grave of a late friend in Beirut, who died in Israeli air-raids on the city in 2006. 

They travel from Abu Dhabi through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and then Lebanon in an increasingly beaten up Range Rover, managing mothers and expectant wives on their smart phones and confronting camels, soccer-crazy border guards, dodgy mechanics, Israeli “hotties”, battle-crazed, pro-regime Syrian soldiers and gun-toting rebels along the way.

It remains to be seen what critics and wider Middle East and Gulf audiences make of the film but Thursday’s crowd appeared to leave the cinema in high spirits.

Lead actors Emirati Fadi Rifaal, Saudi stand-up comedian Fahad Al Butairi, known as the “Seinfeld of Saudi Arabia”, and Egyptian actor Shadi Al Fons were in attendance at the opening night alongside Mostafa and producers Lebanese Paul Badoudjian and Egyptian Mohamed Hefzy who joined Abu Dhabi’s co-producers twofour54 and Image Nation on the project.

Prior to the premiere, US producer Edward Pressman and French Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb received Career Achievement Awards at the opening ceremony.