My top 20 picks for Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2012

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival is back this month (can't believe it's been a year already since I went to the last one). This year, the festival has a new director, Ali Al Jabri, replacing  Peter Scarlet who was the festival director since 2009

The screenings this year have moved back to the Emirates Palace Hotel, after last year's stint at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr which I think people found difficult to go back and forth for screenings. Majority of the screenings though will continue to take place at VOX Cinemas in the Marina Mall, which is close to the Emirates Palace Hotel. Sadly, no screenings happening at my favourite Abu Dhabi Theatre

I went through all the schedule and I must say the film I'm most excited to see is an oldie, the wonderful Singing in the Rain. I've always wanted to see it on the big screen and this is my chance. The other films I'm very excited about are: Ai Wei Wei Never Sorry, A Hijacking, In Search of Sand and Oil, No, Room 237 and Stories We Tell.

Here's my list of top 20 picks in alphabetical order and see you at the festival, front row and centre.   

Ai Wei Wei Never Sorry

Winner of a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, this is a lively, riveting portrait of China’s most famous international artist – and one of the government’s most outspoken critics.

Schedule and ticket information.

Approved for Adoption (Couleur de peau: Miel)

Graphic novelist Jung is one of 200,000 adopted Koreans spread across the world. This mix of animated documentary and live footage, hailed as a Korean Persepolis, follows his journey to his birthplace to discover his roots.

Schedule and ticket information.    

Somewhere in Between (Araf)

Zehra and Olgun, two young souls caught between the past and an uncertain future, are waiting for a chance to escape from their dull lives in this highly anticipated film by Turkish auteur Yeşim Ustaoğlu (Pandora's Box). 

Schedule and ticket information.

Beasts of the Southern Wild 

In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.  

Schedule and ticket information

Eat Sleep Die (Äta sova dö)

Who packed your fresh plastic-sealed salad for lunch? Who are the people losing their factory jobs in dead end small towns? When the forceful young Swedish/Balkan "take-no-shit" factory worker Raša loses her job, she faces the system of unemployment. With no high school diploma, no work -- but her boots deeply stuck in the mud of the small town she grew up in -- she finds herself for the first time on collision course with society and it's contradictable values and expectations. 

Schedule and ticket information.

Haute Cuisine (Les Saveurs du palais)

A culinary comedy from Christian Vincent, based on the story of former French president Francois Mitterand’s personal chef, who wins him over with her cooking even as she discovers the corridors of power are littered with traps. 

Schedule and ticket information

 A Hijacking (Kapringen)

Denmark’s Tobias Lindholm delivers a gripping psychological drama about negotiations between Somali pirates and the CEO of a shipping company, and the terrible toll taken on the ships’ crew.

Schedule and ticket information.  

In Search of Oil and Sand (Nafat wa Turab)

This documentary uncovers a fascinating historical footnote: in 1952, members of the Egyptian royal family shot a film extravaganza about a coup d’état – just weeks before they were swept from power by a real revolution. 

Schedule and ticket information

In the House (Dans la Maison)

This sophisticated drama from acclaimed French auteur François Ozon (Potiche, ADFF 2010) is about a teacher who is inspired by a student’s perceptive essays, until he realizes their blurring of reality and fiction may conceal dark intent. 

Schedule and ticket information


A teenaged girl leads her siblings across postwar Germany after their Nazi parents are arrested by Allies in this sensual and intelligent coming-of-age sophomore film from Australia’s Cate Shortland (Somersault). 

Schedule and ticket information


Top prize winner at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight, Pablo Larraín’s third film about Pinochet-era Chile stars Gael García Bernal as the visionary adman whose bold marketing campaign helped bring the regime to an end. 

Schedule and ticket information

Nomad of the Art and The Gates

This a double bill screening, Nomad of The Art is a short film, an homage to artist Jeanne-Claude and her work with Christo assembles rare footage, and featuring some of their fabulous major works including Wrapped CoastThe UmbrellasWrapped Reichstag and The Gates. It will be followed by The Gates which follows Christo and Jeanne-Claude 26 years (and US $21 million) journey on an art installation in New York’s Central Park which was up for one month in 2005. This documentary provides exceptional insight into their work. 

Schedule and ticket information.

Polluting Paradise (Der Müll im Garten Eden / Cennetteki Çöplük) 

Celebrated director Fatih Akın (Head-On) raises a stink with a highly personal documentary about the open-air garbage dump blighting his Turkish grandparents’ village in the lush hills above the Black Sea. 

Schedule and ticket information

Room 237

Experimental filmmaker Rodney Ascher investigates the enduring power of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic The Shining in this documentary exploring five compelling theories about the film’s meaning. 

I couldn't find a trailer for this. Instead, I found this short clip that's about the music of Room 237. 

Kubrick's film was scored in large part with pre existing classical recordings, but the score for Room 237 has taken as its inspiration the elegant but quirky film music that accompanied low budget horror movies in the 1970s. Composers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson utilize a combination of vintage and contemporary analogue synthesizers, as well as acoustic instruments to create an atmosphere that is at once both haunting and funky.  

Schedule and ticket information

Saving Face 

This Oscar-winning documentary chronicles the plight of Pakistani women who suffer disfiguring acid attacks by their husbands and families, and Dr. Mohammad Jawad, the selfless plastic surgeon who works to help them. 

Schedule and ticket information

Singing in the Rain 

Commemorating the late Gene Kelly's 100th anniversary, this new digital restoration celebrates one of the most beloved movie musicals of all time. Kelly plays a dancer-turned-matinee idol caught in the bumpy transition to sound. 

Schedule and ticket information

Stories We Tell

Oscar nominee Sarah Polley (director of last year’s acclaimed Take This Waltz) is both filmmaker and detective in this inspired, genre-twisting documentary exploring the secrets of a family of storytellers. 

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The World Before Her 

Moving between two extremes - the intimate verite drama of the Miss India pageant's rigorous beauty "bootcamp" and the intense regime of a militant Hindu fundamentalist camp for young girls. The World Before Her delivers a provocative portrait of India and its current cultural conflicts during a key transitional era in the country's modern history.

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A World Not Ours

Three generations of exiled Palestinians call Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon home. This intimate documentary considers what community, belonging and hope mean to the permanently displaced. 

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A pulse-pounding political thriller, Greek expatriate director Costa-Gavras’s Zwas one of the cinematic sensations of the late sixties, and remains among the most vital dispatches from that hallowed era of filmmaking. This Academy Award winner—loosely based on the 1963 assassination of Greek left-wing activist Gregoris Lambrakis—stars Yves Montand as a prominent politician and doctor whose public murder amid a violent demonstration is covered up by military and government officials; Jean-Louis Trintignant is the tenacious magistrate who’s determined not to let them get away with it. Featuring kinetic, rhythmic editing, Raoul Coutard’s expressive vérité photography, and Mikis Theodorakis’s unforgettable, propulsive score, Z is a technically audacious and emotionally gripping masterpiece. (via Criterion)

Schedule and ticket information

You can see the full line up and schedule here.