Wael Hattar's top 20 films to see at Dubai International Film Festival 2016

Like Crazy

After sharing my top 30 list of films to see at this year's Dubai International Film Festival, here's a list by Wael Hattar who has shared his DIFF list in the past (in 2013 and 2015). He is also my Tea with Culture podcast podcast partner (in case you have not listened to it yet). 

Over to you Wael. 


I realised that this year is a little different selection than what I would usually select for myself, possibly due to the notion that many will be later be available via online streaming services like Netflix. There are more smaller films in my list this year, with a lot more sloooooow art stuffs than my usual film fest typical fair. It's still dark, but a lot more quirky and innocent look at things than before.

Usually Hind and I find a theme at every DIFF, and so far this year seems to be about telling stories about women (and many children too) which is a great change to the usual male gaze driven look-on-life-through-film that we usually get globally. So for "Wael’s point of preView", here is my top 20 in the order of what I really want and hope to see the most (and hopefully not get too disappointed).

Additionally, a mini call out to the short films at DIFF this year, as more of them seem very promising. Try to catch Muhr Short 1, Muhr Short 3, and Muhr Gulf Short 2, there seems to be at least two very good shorts in each. 

Here's my list and why I chose them: 

Like Crazy
Director: Paolo Virzì
Rating: 15+ | France and Italy | Italian dialogue with English subtitles | 116 mins   

Looks funny and thoughtful. About two ladies suffering different levels of depression and bipolar disorders who escape an institution in Tuscany of all places. Picked up a lot of awards for the film and it’s actresses.


Director: Cristi Puiu
Rating: 12+ | Romania | Romanian dialogue with English subtitles | 173 mins 

What is essentially a three hour character study has been reviewed very positively and lauded as one of the films of the year, but you have to pay attention as this film doesn’t spoon feed the viewer anything. Having watched the director’s other award winning film The Death of Mr Lazarescu at DIFF 2005, I know to have patience for the dark comedy and the bits of hidden insights and foreshadowing. Then again, it might just be a family trapped at an occasion fighting with each other for three hours.


I am Not Madame Bovary
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Rating: 12+ | China | Mandarin dialogue with English subtitles | 139 mins 

A dark satire about a woman fighting the system, nominated and won a few awards. 


Hotel Salvation
Director: Shubhashish Bhutiani
Rating: 12+ | India | Hindi dialogue with English subtitles | 102 mins 

I really wanted to see this since it’s been popping in and out of film festivals so I’m excited it came here. A calm look at death and the time one has to wait for it while life goes on.


Lady Macbeth
Director: William Oldroyd
Rating: 18+ | United Kingdom | English dialogue with Colour | 89 mins 

Strong film, a dark new look at a period piece that did well on its festival tours. (I wonder if it is comparable to Childhood of a Leader in terms of style and mood?)


Free Fire
Director: Ben Wheatley
Rating : 18+ | France and United Kingdom | English dialogue with Colour | 90 mins 

A funny script, good actors, too many guns stuck in a warehouse. I also like the director. A win for me especially since I doubt it will get a cinema release in the UAE. 


Your Name
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Rating: 12+ | Japan | Japanese dialogue with English subtitles | 106 mins 

Animated movie about on teenage identity - the body switching story is less awkward comedy and more into the thinking behind the situations. Beautifully animated, this was a huge hit in Japan and a hit with the critics too.


Ali, the Goat, and Ibrahim
Director : Sherif El Bendary
Rating : 15+ | Egypt, United Arab Emirates, France and Qatar | Arabic and Sign Language dialogue with English and Arabic subtitles | 97 mins 

Egyptian film, an absurd film about a man in love with a goat that could lead to an interesting look at contemporary Egypt. Plus, I like the writer’s work on older films including El Ott which he wrote and directed).


The Red Turtle
Director: Michael Dudok De Wit
Rating: PG
France, Japan and Belgium / 2016 / Colour / 80 mins  

This animation did really well at festivals, this non-verbal film has also had some not so positive points about it’s rather loose story telling, but also praised for its wordless portrayal of life and it’s cycle.


Director: Pablo Larraín
Rating : 18+  | Chile, France, Spain and Argentina | French and Spanish dialogue with English subtitles | 108 mins    

Out of the many bio epics we have, the life and chase of Neruda is definitely different, as in not all of it is true life story. Why not create some extra drama for someone like him?


Director : Junfeng Boo   
Rating : 15+  | Singapore, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Qatar | English and Malay dialogue with English subtitles | 96 mins

This look at an executioner’s job, it tells a story but should also bring up questions on ethics, control as well as religion, since it comes down to taking life. This young director’s second film has gotten great international reviews.


Sami Blood
Director : Amanda Kernell  
Rating : 15+  | Sweden, Denmark and Norway | Swedish dialogue with English subtitles | 110 mins    

Set in the 1930s when there was discrimination against the Lapps, a young girl has to change who she is to adapt. Harsh reality and a good debut feature from the director who’s story is based on her grandmother. 


White Sun
Director: Deepak Rauniyar  
Rating: PG  | Nepal, Netherlands, Qatar and USA) | Nepali dialogue with English subtitles | 89 mins   

Working on themes of the war as well as separation of caste and the strict rules whilst still managing to keep the points of view of two children, this film did well to grab the attention of the many film fest goers. The film talks of generations and building a new one with the ways of old, and if anything is a point of view from a relatively cinema quiet far off place.


Foreign Body
Director: Raja Amari  
Rating: 15+ | France and Tunisia | Arabic and French dialogue with English and French subtitles | 92 mins 

Acting seems superb, and Hiam Abbas is great anyway great, so I am looking forward to this. Many reviews say it could have been great but just didn’t take that step forward, but rather stuck to the not-super-strong three haracter study. A few comparisons to “Parisienne” which showed last year at DIFF, so should be a decent film to catch.


Zaineb Hates the Snow
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Rating: PG | Tunisia | Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles | 95 mins  

Knowing Ben Hania’s dark subtle satiric sense of humour (Challat of Tunis at DIFF 2013) I am looking forward to see what she can do with this documentary about a six year old girl moving to Canada who decided to hate it and its snow.


King of the Belgians
Director : Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens  
Rating : 12+  | Belgium, Bulgaria and Netherlands | English, Bulgarian, Dutch and French dialogue with English subtitles | 94 mins  

A mockumentary covering monarchy and the governing issues of things including borders and people. Funny, light and possibly poignant. Expecting to laugh. 


Withered Green
Director : Mohammed Hammad
Rating: 15+ | Egypt | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 73 mins 

This quiet film tells a tale of a woman in her land of related males trying to do the right thing and witnesses her interaction. The few reviews out there were very favorable and the clip I found was quite eerie and uncomfortable.


Wolf and Sheep
Director: Shahrbanoo Sadat  
Rating: 12+ | Denmark, France, Sweden and Afghanistan | Hazaragi dialogue with English subtitles | 86 mins  

A small village and its tradition seen through the eyes of children. Told by the director from stories similar to her past.


Gaza Surf Club
Director : Philip Gnadt, Mickey Yamine  
Rating : PG  | Germany | Arabic and English dialogue with English subtitles | 87 mins  

When you have nothing else but the waves, what better way to distract yourself form the horrible reality but to put your head in the watery sand. The story told looks fresh and possibly a combination of sad and hopeful like how life is. Reviews are an interesting flow between “where is the true war and drama?” to “a fresh look at life outside of the usual”. I just hope the film itself doesn’t only just dwell on the 15 year old girl surfer and use it as a crutch to interest the west. 


Voyage of Time
Director: Director : Terrence Malick
Rating: 15+ | Germany | English dialogue with Arabic subtitles | 90 mins 

Beautiful visuals about the creation of the world and time voiced by Cate Blanchette. Compared to the 20min opening sequence of his film “Tree of Life”, most critiques liked where Malik has finally reached whereas there are a few who are not pleased. So in the end, this specific type of documentary visual is really up to my taste. If you are going to see it, then do so at the cinema.