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Irrfan’s Song of Scorpions one of Dubai Film Festival highlights

The Dubai International Film Festival, whose 14th edition is all set to start on December 6, has gained enormous significance leaving behind similar fetes in the region.

Updated: Dec 06, 2017 15:35:34

By Gautaman Bhaskaran

Shabana Azmi in a still from the upcoming film, 5 Rupees.

Much like the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea which has become the premium annual cinema event in Asia in a little over two decades beating the much older Tokyo and Goa, the Dubai International Film Festival, whose 14th edition is all set to start on December 6, has gained enormous significance leaving far behind similar fetes in the region. Cairo just concluded its 39th edition under the cloud of the Sinai massacre (with over 330 dead), and Marrakech decided not to hold its 2017 chapter, having been around since 2001. The Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which became big since its inception in 2007, was scrapped after eight editions in 2014.

This leaves Dubai as the most noted festival in MENA (Middle East North Africa). And honestly, the festival has lived up to this reputation, offering some wonderful selections year after year.

This time, one of the festival’s highlights will most certainly be Anup Singh’s The Song of Scorpions. In his latest outing, Singh travels to the golden sands of Rajasthan to tell us the story of a mythical singer who has the magical power to draw out the poison of a deadly scorpion from the blood stream of a victim. With three brilliant actors, India’s Irrfan Khan and Waheeda Rehman as well as Iran’s (but settled in Paris) Golshifteh Farahani, acting out Singh’s tale of love and treachery (so much like Shakespeare), The Song of Scorpions can but be fantastic.

Anup Singh’s The Song of Scorpions stars Irrfan Khan and Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani in the lead roles.

Also, Dubai will honour Khan with a Honorary Achievement Award on the opening night. The festival’s chairman, Abdulhamid Juma, said “Irrfan Khan is one of the greats of acting and cinema, with an array of acting credits that are testament to his incredible talents and his adaptability to play varying roles across many genres. His dedication to acting and the movie industry, his ascension from small roles in Indian cinema to blockbuster hits, and his award-winning acclaim are just some of the reasons why we at the Festival are delighted to present him with the Honorary Award at the Festival’s 14th Edition.” But of course.



The second title from India is Piyush Chandrakant Panjuani’s debut feature, 5 Rupees, a picture for children. Panjuani, who has turned in dozens of television commercials winning accolades, now gives us a children’s tale about a poor old woman (essayed by Shabana Azmi), who has saved a five-rupee coin to gift it to her seven-year-old grandson, Hamid, at the end of Eid. When the money goes missing, it unleashes a chain of events with the lady and the lad discovering unpleasant truths.

Iran’s Majid Majidi – who has probably begun to find it more convenient making cinema in India than in his own country – will present his Beyond the Clouds at Dubai. Said to be his first feature set in India with English, Hindi and Tamil dialogues, the film (coming from one who gave us gems like The Father, Children of Heaven and Colour of Paradise) will dwell on nuanced human relationships with Indian theatre actress, Malavika Mohanan, and Ishan Khatter, infusing life into Majidi’s plot.

The festival will kick off with Scott Cooper’s western Hostiles, starring Christian Bale as an army captain tasked with accompanying a Native American chief back to his homeland. Unfolding in the dying days of the indigenous population’s struggle to hold onto their homelands, the feature — which captures the period in all its brutality and complexity — has a strange resonance in the Middle East.

Rosamund Pike in a still from Hostiles.

“The story happened in 1872 but it really speaks to a contemporary audience and reflects what is happening in the world today in terms of violence and rejection of others,” says Juma. “It’s a dark, strong film but it has a lot of hope in it. I like the message that there is always hope regardless of what happens around you.”

Hostiles will be one among the 140 titles from 51 countries to screen over the course of the next eight days.

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Dubai International Film Festival.)

Follow @htshowbiz for more

First Published: Dec 06, 2017 13:47:58

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