Ang Lee’s The Life Of Pi will open this year’s Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) on December 9, while Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires will close the eight-day event.

In total, the festival will screen 161 films including 52 world premieres, 14 international premieres, 73 Middle East premieres and 17 Gulf premieres.

Red carpet gala screenings include the Arabian premieres of Karzan Kadar’s Bekas and Haifa Al Mansour’s Wadjda; Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren; Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, and Michael Haneke’s Amour.

The gala premiere representing the Asia Africa programme is Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s Back To 1942. DIFF’s afternoon gala for younger views is the world premiere of Journey To The Christmas Star.

DIFF also announced that Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to Egyptian actor Mahmoud Abdul Aziz and UK director Michael Apted.

Jurors across the festival’s various competition strands include Apted, Kerry Fox, Bruno Barreto, Lee Chang-dong, Fatemeh Motamed-Arya and Nayla Al Khaja. The festival will showcase a record number of 83 films across the three major competitions - the Muhr Emirati, Muhr Arab and Muhr AsiaAfrica awards.

“This year I truly feel we are presenting one of our strongest line-ups ever, bringing together filmmakers and fans to watch a remarkable variety of films from around the world,” said DIFF chairman Abdulhamid Juma.

“This year half of our festival is dedicated to an exciting showcase of films, features and shorts from the Arab world. DIFF is a home-grown brand, deeply rooted in the UAE and we take great pride in our Arab heritage whilst continuously striding to strengthen intercultural dialogue.

International talent attending the festival includes Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Frieda Pinto, Kirsten Davis, Amr Waked and Life Of Pi star Suraj Sharma. Blanchett will join the jury to select the winner for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award which offers a $100,000 cash prize to the winning filmmaker.