Stars attend gala opening at Emirates Palace, Richard Gere teases potential feature in the region.

The sixth edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (Oct 11-20) launched last night at the five-star Emirates Palace with a gala screening of Nicolas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, attended by Jarecki and stars Richard Gere and Nate Parker.

The film’s producers Mohammed Al Turki, Brian Young and Kevin Turen also attended, with Al Turki telling the audience that screening the film in Abu Dhabi was “a dream come true”.

“I never thought I could embark on a film career,” he told the packed auditorium. “I am from within the Gulf region where we are a conservative society, where cinema can be considered taboo. However, we are living proof of evolution. We are the new generation.”

Richard Gere, on his first visit to Abu Dhabi, thanked the festival and in a brief interview before the screening, teased a future project that could shoot in the region: “I was talking to some Arab friends of mine today about possibly shooting something here,” he said.

A host of leading lights from the Arab cinema world attended the screening, alongside local dignitaries, Indian cinema icon Mammootty, jury members Shabana Azmi, Niki Karimi, Cédomir Kolar, Samir Farid and Ismaël Farroukhi as well as international media.

This year’s festival, under new director Ali Al Jabri, hosts eight world premieres, 81 feature films, 62 narrative films and 19 documentaries and has a daily schedule of masterclasses and press conferences.

It is also the first year the festival is managed by Abu Dhabi’s media and entertainment hub twofour54.

Among today’s [Friday 12] screenings are the red carpet Gala for Nousry Yasrallah’s After the Battle, attended by the director, It Was the Son, attended by director Daniele Cipri, Mumbai’s King, presented by director Manjeet Singh and American Empire, attended by director Patrea Patrick.