Arts and CultureDubaiUAE

Everything you need to know about META Film Fest

Coming up in November, the second edition will bring with it an esteemed international jury and 95 films from 32 countries.

After a successful launch edition that featured over 70 films from 25 countries, META Film Fest is set to return for its second edition, this time taking over at VOX Cinemas, Wafi City, from 9 to 12 November. Once again, the four-day international motion picture gala promises to be a celebration of world cinema with an impressive line-up of films, a host of special events tailored to film enthusiasts, and an esteemed international jury — the latter will be composed of 11 accomplished directors, producers, journalists, professors and critics.

The festival’s 2023 edition will showcase 95 films from 32 countries, with 29 films serving as special festival premieres, while the remaining 66 films will compete for various prizes in categories of Feature, Short, Documentary, and Student films. What’s noteworthy this time around is the increase of Arabic titles, with 30 Arabic films included within the festival line-up. Notable full Feature Film entries include the Turkish film Black Night (directed by Özcan Alper), Bodyguard from Kazakhstan (directed by Akan Satayev), and French film Our Ties (directed by Roschdy Zem). Snow and the Bear, the Turkish film whose lead Merve Dizdar won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, is another stand-out.

A variety of these films will have their official world premiere at the META Film Fest. Two Arabic titles from Kuwait, Akh with its world premiere and How I Got There with its UAE premiere, are among the surprise masterpieces in the Feature film competition category. Additionally, the category also includes films such as Sons of Ramses (a French film directed by Clement Cogitore), No End (a Persian film directed by Nader Saeivar), and Jananam 1947 Pranayam Thudarunnu (a Malayalam film directed by Abijith Asokan) will also premiere at META Film Fest. Persian feature film Endless Borders, directed by Abbas Amini and winner of awards such as International Film Festival Rotterdam and Hamburg International Film Festival, will be the opening film this year. 

Elsewhere, Spanish feature film Virginal Pink, will have its World Premiere at the festival and serve as the festival’s closing film. It’s directed by Dennis Smith, and stars Argentinian superstar Juana Viale, who will be visiting Dubai for the first time along with her cast and crew. Additionally, Winners, the UK’s official entry to the Oscars in 2023, will also participate in the competition. Director Hassan Nazer and actor Reza Naji will both attend the screening. META Film Fest will also see over 25 Short Films, with entries such as Fatih the Conqueror (a Turkish film directed by Onur Yagiz), Beneath a Mother’s Feet (an Arabic film directed by Hassan Saeed), And Me, I’m Dancing Too (a Persian film directed by Mohammad Valizadegan), and Palestine 87 competing for tangible recognition.

In a diverse array of films screened, approximately 15 Documentary Films will be in competition including German film Dear Memories and the Japanese film Earthbound: Nzambi Matee, which will be screened in English and Swahili. META Film Fest will also include a Student category for passionate young talents to showcase their skills. The festival’s Student Projects category will see six compelling films competing for an award, with Alaikal, a Malayalam short produced by Dream6 and exploring themes of nostalgia, friendship, love, and companionship, dubbed one of the hot favourites, alongside titles such as Desert Slam directed by Joshua Canlas Ponseca, The Son of a Lost Father directed by Sadeq Al, and more.

In addition to the competition screenings, META Film Fest will host special premieres of notable films, including May December and Seven Winters in Tehran, the former of which is directed by Todd Haynes, written by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik, and tells the story of a married couple grappling with the arrival of an actress researching their past tabloid romance and stars Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton. Incidentally, the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.

Another highlight of the event is the Indian Film Festival, which will see the likes of Holy Conspiracy, a Bengali film that adapts the American play Inherit the Wind, among the nominated films. Featuring Indian celebrity couple Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, both are set to attend a screening of the film during the festival. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, a 2000 Indian English-Hindi bilingual feature film directed by Jabbar Patel, will also be screened. The movie, starring South Indian actor Mammootty, saw him win a National Film Award in India for Best Actor.

Another film set to premiere during the festival is Syndrome, directed by Anton Bormatov and exploring the unsettling consequences of a car accident. It stars Oksana Akinshina and Kirill Käro. The festival is bringing a total of 14 world premieres, offering audiences exclusive first views of cutting-edge global cinema. Additionally, the festival features 28 regional premieres, introducing captivating films previously unseen in the Middle East. With an emphasis on local talent, there will be 38 UAE premieres as well as a spotlight on regional stories with 30 Arabic films. This diverse selection ensures a rich cinematic experience, making META Film Fest a vibrant hub for film enthusiasts.

META Film Fest is not just about films; it also offers an array of engaging panels, workshops and masterclasses. Attendees can look forward to a ‘Women in Cinema’ panel discussion featuring prominent industry figures, ‘Expat Connections: Exploring Cultural Intersection in UAE Cinema’, and a one-on-one interview with renowned Pakistani actress Sajal Aly. 

For those interested in the technical side of the industry, the festival is offering a masterclass on ‘AI in the Film Industry’ led by Pooyan Sedghi. Nancy Paton, Desert Rose Films, and President of WIFTGCC will lead a masterclass on the business and the legal side of movie production. Meanwhile, a masterclass to introduce cinema to children and youths led by Fateme Fereydoun, an acting masterclass by Valeria Tsvietok, and a director’s masterclass by Indian luminary Adoor Gopalakrishnan will also be held.

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Samia Qaiyum
A textbook third culture kid with a perpetual thirst for adventure, Samia Qaiyum specialises in travel and culture, having lived in five countries and travelled to 34 others – just don't ask her to define the word 'home'.

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