Rob Marshall’s musical feature Nine, starring Daniel Day Lewis (pictured), will open the 6th Dubai International Film Festival on December 9.

The film, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren, is based on the 1982 Tony-award winning Broadway musical, which was inspired by Fellini’s autobiographical film 8 ½.

The festival’s Arabian Nights strand, which celebrates local film-making, will open with the world premiere of Ali F Mostafa’s City of Life. The film revolves around three lives – a privileged Emirati male, disillusioned Indian taxi driver, and Western woman -  and stars Alexandra Maria Lara, Sonu Sood, Saoud Al Ka’abi, Yassin Alsaman and Jason Flemming.

Rodrigo Garcia’s drama Mother and Child, starring Naomi Watts, Samuel L Jackson and Annette Benning, heads up the Cinema of the World section, whilst Alain Monne’s Cartagena starring Sophie Marceau and Christopher Lambert will open the festival’s special focus on France. Based on the novel L’Homme de Chevet, it involves a former boxing champion and a paralysed woman for whom he cares.

The Indian Cinema gala will be the world premiere of Shimit Amin’s Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, a satire on office life in Mumbai’s booming world of IT, starring Ranbir Kapoor.

The festival will close on December 15 with James Cameron’s 3D epic Avatar, starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez.

DIFF artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali  said: “These screenings define DIFF – in  terms of the power of film content, diversity of films with an international outlook and the sheer enthusiasm of the audience.”

  • Meanwhile, the festival has also announced a 15-strong line-up for this year’s Muhr AsiaAfrica Awards, to be held on December 16. It includes Oliver Hermanus’ Shirley Adams, Bong Joon-ho’s Cannes title Mother Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Thai film Nymph and At The End Of Daybreak, a modern day fable from Malaysian director Ho Yuhang.

The competition programme also includes two films from India – Subramania Shiva’s Yogi, which is also a world premiere, and Shyam Benegal’s comedy Well Done Abba – and Vimukthi Jayasundara’s Sri Lankan conflict drama, Between Two Worlds. There is also three films from Iranian directors – Mohammad Rasoulof’s The White Meadows, which explores a magical world where tears are collected for a secret propose, Shirin Neshat’s Women Without Men, for which Neshat has already won the Silver Lion at this year’s Venice, and love story Heiran, directed by Shalizeh Arefpour, set against the backdrop of refugees fleeing Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

China has one entry – Jian Wenli’s Lan, set during the Cultural Revolution, and one nominees from the Philippines, Brillante Mendoza’s simple tale of two grandmothers, Lola.

The final entry is Japan’s Lost Paradise in Toyko, directed by Kazuya Shiraishi, which looks at aspiration and family ties in modern day Tokyo.

A further 14 finalists have been selected for this year’s Muhr Arab Documentary Awards.The line-up comprises nine world premieres including Fix Me, by film-maker Raed Andoni, which explore the collective and individual psyches of modern-day Palestinians; Masri Hajjaj’s As The Poet Said, looking the life of times of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’ Gaza On The Air, a hard hitting look at the January 2009 bombardment of the area by Samir Abdallah, and Little Wings, where film-maker Rashid Masharawi visits Baghdad to meet the young children forced to work, drawing parallels with youngsters in Gaza.