My Top 25 Picks of International Films for Dubai International Film Festival 2013

A Story of Children and Film

A Story of Children and Film

After sharing with you my top 25 Arab films to see at this year's Dubai International Film Festival, here is my top 25 international films. Here too I just focused on full length feature films/documentaries. I normally share a top 20 list, but since this is a special year for Dubai International Flm Festival, I decided I'd expand my list. 

There are so many good films in the line up, just hope I get to see as many as I can. 

Do you have your own list? Let me know what are your must see films, and see you at the festival, front row and centre.  

12 Years A Slave

Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom, 12 Years A Slave is set in pre-Civil War United States. Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free African-American New Yorker, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Facing cruelty from a slave owner (Michael Fassbender) and receiving unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life. 

Schedule and ticket information.

A Story of Children and Film

The world’s first movie about children in global cinema, A Story of Children and Film is a poetic portrait of the adventures of childhood. Looking at 53 great films from 25 countries, it includes classics such as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and The Red Balloon (1956).

Combining a child’s perspective as well as director Mark Cousins’s famous documentary-style, the film is a celebration of childhood and cinema. 

Schedule and ticket details.  

Behind the Flickering Light (The Archive) 

A tribute to Indonesian legend Haji Misbach Yusa Biran, Behind the Flickering Light (The Archive) traces the personal life of the famous archivist, who founded Southeast Asia’s first film archive – Sinematik Indonesia. The film looks at how the former film director dedicated most of his life to preserving crucial aspects of Indonesian cinema. 

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Champ of the Camp

Champ of the Camp is the first ever feature-length documentary filmed in the UAE’s labour accommodation. Told (and sung) entirely in the voices of the labourers, it follows a Bollywood singing and trivia competition that takes place each summer in Dubai.

The film chronicles the stories of characters such as Dhattu, a middle-aged Indian sweeper who is saving up for his daughters' marriages, and Adnan, a Pakistani who excels in all things Bollywood and is proud of his work on the world’s tallest tower.

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Class Enemy

The relationship between a group of students and their new German teacher is tense, due to key differences in their perception of life. When one of the students commits suicide, her classmates hold the teacher responsible for the tragedy. After the incident, emotions run high and every one begins evaluating the situation – but in black and white. 

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Fish and Cat

A group of students travel to a remote region to participate in a kite-flying event. Next to their camp by the lakeside, they find a restaurant with cooks that treat the students with suspicion. Bizarre events lead to a complicated situation, from which the students cannot escape. 

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The Great Beauty

In this stirring portrait of Rome today, The Great Beauty follows Jep Gambardella, an aging journalist (played by superstar Toni Servillo), who enjoys the city’s social life to the fullest. He attends chic dinners and parties, where his sparkling wit and pleasant company are always welcome.

Weary of his lifestyle, Gambardella sometimes dreams of taking up his pen again, haunted by memories of his passionate youth that he cannot let go of. Can he overcome his disenchantment with the world?

Schedule and ticket details.


Despite a paralysed leg, 25-year-old Grigris dreams of being a dancer. His dreams are dashed when his uncle falls critically ill. To save him, Grigris resolves to work for petrol traffickers. The film also features some riveting dance moves and music by Senegalese composer Wasis Diop.

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Ilo Ilo

Set in Singapore, Ilo Ilo  chronicles the relationship between a family of three and their new Filipina maid, Teresa, who has left her home in search of a better life. After a rocky start, Teresa and Jiale, the young and troublesome boy she cares for, soon form a bond and she quickly becomes a part of the family. But the year is 1997 and the Asian financial crisis is starting to be felt across the region. 

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In Bloom

Set in the early 1990s, In Bloom looks at Tbilisi, the capital of the newly-independent Georgia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Georgia is embroiled in a war on the Black Sea coast (Abkhazia) and violence pervades in its society.

But, for two inseparable 14-year-old friends, Eka and Natia, life continues as normal, even though they face oppression and disillusionment.

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Inside Llewyn Davis

Huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) struggles to make it as a musician and lives at the mercy of both friends and strangers. His misadventures take him on an odyssey to audition for music mogul Bud Grossman – and back again.

Featuring musicians Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford and the Punch Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes 2013. 

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Kajarya follows the lives of two characters, who live in two very different Indias. Kajarya lives in a small village in the northern state of Haryana. In her village, She carries out the repugnant task of murdering unwanted female infants, under the pretext of religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, in the Indian capital, New Delhi, Meera, a rookie reporter, lives the modern urban dream until her world collides with Kajarya’s. Meera stumbles across a sensational piece of journalism that catapults her into celebrity, but is sure to change the course of the two women’s lives forever.

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The Last Impresario

The Last Impresario is a biographical documentary on Michael White – the playboy and bon vivant London theatre and film impresario. White, who is now in his late seventies, has produced over 200 shows and movies over the last 50 years.

Bringing to the stage the risqué productions of Oh! Calcutta!, The Rocky Horror Show and to the screen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, he irrevocably shaped the cultural scene of 1970s London. The film features interviews with 50 of his closest friends, including Anna Wintour, Kate Moss and Barry Humphries and, of course, White himself.

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The Lunchbox

Ila, a housewife, tries to add some spice to her marriage – this time through her cooking. However, the special lunchbox she packs for her husband is mistakenly delivered to Saajan, a lonely man on the verge of retirement. She adds in a note in the following day’s lunchbox, and triggers a strange relationship with Saajan.

Through the lunchbox, the two embark on a curious journey of discovery, sharing their regrets, fears and joys through these notes. Still strangers physically, Ila and Saajan are in danger of losing themselves in a virtual relationship that could jeopardise both their realities. 

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Miss Violence

On the day of her birthday, 11-year-old Angeliki jumps off the balcony and falls to her death with a smile on her face. When the police and social services investigate the cause of this apparent suicide, Angeliki’s family insists that her death was an accident.

The family’s secrets are slowly unravelled as Angeliki’s younger brother unintentionally reveals clues during the investigation. One by one they will break down, until violence will, once again, offer a solution.

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My Red Shoes

In 1979, two 20-year-old Iranian Marxists, Kaveh and Fariba, are students of architecture and metallurgy respectively. The Iranian Revolution turns their country and their ideals of revolution and liberty upside down. Combining gripping personal accounts, scenes of daily life and metaphysical digressions, MY RED SHOES is a film about the changes after a private and political catastrophe, shot entirely in the director’s family home.

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Both funny and moving, Paradise examines the impact of change on a relationship. Carmen and Alfredo are overweight but happy and content in their relationship and in their lives.

However, when they are forced to move to Mexico City, a noisy and chaotic environment, and decide to go on a diet together, their harmonious relationship begins to sour. 

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Particle Fever

Imagine being able to watch as Thomas Edison turned on the first light bulb, or as Benjamin Franklin received his first jolt of electricity. Particle Fever follows six scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet.

As they seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe, 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries joined together in pursuit of a single goal: to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter.

Schedule and ticket details.  

The Past 

Following a four-year separation, Ahmad returns to Paris from Tehran after his French wife, Marie, requests that he finalises their divorce. During his brief stay, Ahmad discovers the conflicting nature of Marie's relationship with her daughter Lucie and uncovers a secret from their past, leading to a devastatingly emotional resolution.

The Past stars Berenice Bejo, who won Best Actress in Cannes for her unforgettable performance, and the film's screenplay won the EU Media Prize.

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The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant is a contemporary take on Oscar Widle’s fable. Fourteen-year-old Arbor and his best friend Swifty are excluded from school and are outsiders in their own community. The two meet Kitten, a local scrap merchant, and collect scrap metal for him, using a horse and cart.

Swifty has a natural gift with horses, while Arbor has sound business acumen and a way with words. They make a good team and work well together, until Arbor becomes as greedy and manipulative as Kitten.

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Smash & Grab - The Story of the Pink Panthers 

In their own words, the most successful jewel thieves of all time take audiences into their world: the post-Milosovic Balkans, the modern diamond trade and a 21st century crime gang. Made over four years, the film features interviews with five members of the Pink Panther gang and associates – the same group responsible for the AED14m Dubai jewel heist in 2007.

As many of the criminals are caught (two in Dubai after the robbery) and extradited, this film asks: Is this the end of the Pink Panthers?

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Thou Gild'st The Even 

Thou Gild'st The Even is a black-and-white film about the ordinary sorrows, worries and troubles of a group of Anatolian townsmen with extraordinary abilities. Cemal is an assistant referee, who can see through walls; Yasemin works in an egg factory and can move objects with her fingers; and Defne is a street vendor who can freeze time. 

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Tim's Vermeer

Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries of art. How did the 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring) manage to paint so photo-realistically –150 years before the invention of photography?

Spanning eight years, the epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he finally discovers.

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The Unknown Known

In The Unknown Known, Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris offers a mesmerising portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, the larger-than-life figure who served as George W. Bush’s secretary of defence and as the principal architect of the Iraq War.

Rather than conducting a conventional interview, Morris has Rumsfeld perform and explain his “snowflakes” – the enormous archive of memos he wrote across his 50-year-long political career. The documentary explores how one man’s ideology, written out on paper, transformed America, changed the course of history – and ultimately led to war.

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Walesa. Man of Hope.

Walesa. Man of Hope is a biopic on Lech Walesa, the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement.

Focusing on the personal and political struggles he faced in the lead-up to the revolution, the film is woven together through a conversation with the world-famous journalist Oriana Fallaci. It helps unveil the truth behind Walesa – a man gifted with charisma and unmatched political intuition.

The film is Poland’s candidate for the Academy Awards in the foreign-language category.

Schedule and ticket details.