Colin Firth, Carey Mulligan and a host of Arab stars walked the red carpet at the opening of the seventh Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) at the Madinat Jumeirah on Sunday night (Dec 12).

Arab stars in attendance included Egypt’s Ahmed Bedir, Lebleba and Majid El Kedwany, while African filmmaker Souleyman Cisse and Hong Kong director Johnnie To, who heads the Muhr AsiaAfrica jury, also attended the opening ceremony.  

Firth took to the stage to introduce opening film, The King’s Speech – which tells the story of King George VI’s struggle to overcome a speech impediment and lead the nation during wartime – and explain writer David Seidler’s 30-year journey to bring the story to the big screen. Seidler had approached the King’s wife, the late mother of the current Queen, for permission to film his story back in the 1970s, but she had asked him not to do it during her lifetime.  

The eight-day festival will screen 157 films from 57 countries including red carpet galas for Egyptian films Six, Seven, Eight and Cairo Exit; Polish film Tomorrow Will Be Better; The Nutcracker In 3D; Emirati short The Philosopher and Chinese martial arts epic Reign of Assassins.

Competition sections include the Muhr Arab, Muhr Emirati and Muhr AsiaAfrica awards. Lifetime Achievement awards will be given to Cisse, Sean Penn and Arab icon Sabah.

DIFF is also hosting the Dubai Film Market which brings together all of the festival’s various industry-related activities including Dubai Filmmart, a trade platform housing a digital screening library; the Dubai Film Connection co-production market; the Dubai Film Forum conference programme, and Enjaaz, the festival’s new post-production support programme which aims to award funding up to a maximum of $100,000 in 15 projects a year.