One of the most fascinating sections of the Dubai International Film Festival is Cinema of the World. The 13th edition of the festival -- to run from December 7 to 14 -- has just unveiled its first titles in this category.
The renowned British director, Otto Bell -- also known for his documentaries -- returns to this genre with The Eagle Huntress. Rivetingly documented, the work traces the story of Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Mongolian girl from the Altai mountain community who is determined to stake her claim in the male-dominated tradition of eagle hunting. Faced with gruelling training and cultural obstacles, this mesmerising true tale about family, tradition and courage follows her journey to become the first female eagle huntress in 2,000 years!
French-Malian auteur Daouda Coulibaly will arrive in Dubai with his sinister story culled from the streets of Mali. Called Wulu, the debut work will describe Ladji’s plight as he fights the cycle of poverty even as he yearns for a brighter future, a future in which his sister need not work as a prostitute. But in his desperate hurry, Ladji takes on more than what he can possibly handle, and slips onto a treacherous path.
The Teacher comes from the camera of Czech helmer, Jan Hrebejk. Here we would see the evils of a corrupt teacher, Miss Drazdechova, who tortures and torments her students to such an extent that one of them tries to kill herself. While the principal of the school and parents are bent on tackling the crisis, they hesitate to do so, because of the manipulative teacher’s close links with the ruling Communist Party.
The Australian filmmaker, Ivan Sen -- critically lauded for his refreshing look at the struggles of his country’s often-abused indigenous population -- will be at the festival with his crime thriller, Goldstone. We would watch on screen how Jay Swan, an Aboriginal police detective, probes the strange disappearance of a man in the frontier town of Goldstone. Swan’s task gets murky when he confronts a web of lies and deceit.
Also part of the Cinema of the World will be Nate Parker’s moving, true life American drama, The Birth of a Nation -- about an educated slave, Nat Turner, who leads his people to a rebellion. A Variety review had this say: “No movie worthy of this particular historical subject could hope or expect to avoid controversy, and Parker’s well-researched screenplay (based on a story he wrote with Jean McGianni Celestin) offers its own bold take on the widely contested narrative of Turner, a Virginia-born slave and Baptist preacher who led the uprising that claimed 60 white lives and led to the killings of 200 blacks in retaliation, and served as a crucial moment of insurrection en route to the Civil War three decades later. But The Birth of a Nation commences long before those fateful events, with a series of scenes observing Nat’s childhood on a cotton plantation in Southampton County...”
Parker would be in the company of another American director, Jeff Nichols, with his historical narrative, Loving. The film will remind one of all that is happening in today’s India. An emotional story about an interracial marriage between Richard and Mildred, Nichols’ work traces the couple’s turbulent life in the late 1950s in the American State of Virginia, where such a union was against the law. Eventually, the US Supreme Court held that marriage was a human right and Virginia had to repeal the Act. A strong parallel may be drawn between Loving and the khap rulings in India on inter-caste marriages/love affairs, which have led to horrible tragedies, snuffing out young lives.
From Afghanistan, we have Wolf And Sheep by the promising new talent, Shahrbanoo Sadat. It is her first feature -- which is drawn from her childhood in Afghanistan. The heartfelt story follows the isolated lives of two 11-year-old Afghan children, Sediqa and Qodrat, living within a confined village. Rejected by the community and frequently humiliated, the children escape to the warmth of the mountains, where a chance encounter seems like magic.
Singaporean auteur Boo Junfeng will present Apprentice, a tense retelling of the guilt and agony of a prison executioner -- which can remind one of Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s 2002 Nizhalkkuthu (Shadow Kill), where he explores the angst of a hangman in the royal court of the erstwhile Travancore State.
Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s After The Storm from Japan will talk about a celebrated author’s struggles to come to terms with his divorce and to reunite with his son.
Bulgarian helmers Kristina Grozeva and Peter Valchanov will tell us how a low paid railroad worker’s life changes when finds millions of banknotes on the track. The movie is titled Glory.
Finally, we will have the late Andrzej Wajda’s Afterimage -- a masterpiece about the decaying life of a brave and inspirational contemporary artist who refuses to sacrifice his freedom against the forceful power of the communist regime.