A strong line-up of documentaries including Mahmoud Kaabour’s Champ Of The Camp and Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, about the Egyptian revolution, were attracting as much critical and public attention as the dramas at this year’s DIFF, highlighting the growing strengh of factual filmmaking in the region.
Other stand-out docs included Ahmed Nour’s Waves and Mohamed Amine Boukhris’s War Reporter, which both received world premieres in the Muhr Arab documentary competition, and Jose A Alayon’s docu-drama Slimane, which premiered in Arabian Nights.
The Muhr AsiaAfrica documentary section also contained strong titles such as Sara Rastegar’s My Red Shoes, looking back at the Iranian revolution; Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, With Love and Riann Hendricks’ The Devil’s Lair.
Arab fiction titles such as Mohamed Khan’s Factory Girl; which also had its world premiere at DIFF; Laila Marrakchi’s Rock The Casbah; Thierry De Peretti’s Apaches and Caroline Link’s Exit Marrakech were also generating a buzz around the festival and in the market.
Many of these played in the typically strong Arabian Nights section – along with titles such as Maria Florencia Alvarez’s Habi, The Foreigner and Sean Gullette’s Traitors, which also also helped focus attention on drama from the region.
Indeed with foreign-language Oscar buzz circling around both DIFF opening night film Omar and Wadjda, which screened at the festival last year – and support for The Square in the Oscars’ documentary section – there is a feeling that the spotlight is shining towards the region and the stories that are being told.
The tangible good will around Kaabour’s possible breakout documentary Champ Of The Camp and the high-profile gala screening for Factory Girl helped reinforce the sense that as DIFF hits double figures it is increasingly a festival that can help drive and reinforce the growing strength of cinema from the region.
As usual, the red carpet gala screenings attracted the most attention, with the screening of Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom greeted with appropriate respect.
The strong selection also included Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave; Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station; John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr Banks and Ben Stiller’s bittersweet comedy-drama The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.
Highlights of the Cinema of the World section included Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty; In Bloom, directed by Simon Gross and Nana Ekvtimishvili; the Coen brothers Inside Llewyn Davis; Marion Hansel’s Tenderness; Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road; Asghar Farhadi’s The Past and Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant.
The strength of India’s independent cinema was reflected by screenings of Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout and Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, while in the Cinema of AsiaAfrica section high points included Biyi Bandele’s Half Of A Yellow Sun and Lee Sang-Il’s Unforgiven.