Wael’s list of top 20 picks of films for Dubai International Film Festival 2013

Here’s a third and last list of recommended films to see at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival.

This is a list made by my friend Wael Hattar. We’ve been talking a lot over the past few days about the films and our schedule for this festival. So I invited him to share his list of films I can feature here. 

Wael has a very interesting approach in selecting his films. It involves marker pens, notes – a lot more OCD compared to my research of films for the festival. His original list included a lot of titles I already shared with you, so I took the 20 titles that are different to share with you. 

I also asked Wael why he chose these films. So instead of including the synopsis for each film here, you will read in Wael’s words why he recommends these films.

Over to you Wael.


The list below is mainly my personal taste plus some logical analysis (my logic, not global logic so not sure how that affects you). It is, mostly dark and gritty but do read the synopsis of each film on the DIFF website (click on each title below) for an actual view of the film, but this is why I want to see these films:  

Abuse of Weakness

A story about film, but about giving and taking power due to the main character’s position. Could be a similar feel to Rust and Bones from last year in terms of getting to terms so am willing to give it a try.

American Hustle

David O. Russell’s third recent film (after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook) and they just seem to be getting better. For this, he got his favorite cast to make sure the hype isn’t just that. So I’m excited to see this if I can. 


Reviews were so-so. It’s about youth and rougher interactions, so could be a dark view that can be worth watching. I just hope it won’t be another Bling Ring.

Bidesia in Bambai

This is the second of singing documentaries that I want to watch this year (Champ of the Camp is the other one) with quite similar ideas,so will interesting to compare the two.

Challat Of Tunis

Always interested in Arab films when it’s not about politics or war or male melodrama. 

Durban Poison

Looks a little violent but seems interesting. Part real, part Bonnie and Clyde/Natural Born Killers romanticism - so lets see how South Africa does it. 

How I Live Now

Intrigued by the story and love Saoirse Ronan’s acting in general and believe she can carry a film. 

Labor Day

From Jason Reitman, the director of Juno with a good cast including Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Tobey McGuire, so this an automatic watch. 

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Good director (Justin Chadwick), good actor (Idris Elba) and a seemingly un-romanticized story of Mandela’s life, so should be decent. 

May in the Summer

Directed by Cherien Dabis who made Amreeka and stars Hiam Abbass, so worth a try. 

Of Good Report

Risqué and dark so could be a good find. It was also banned after it’s first screening in South Africa…now unbanned, let's all judge. 

On My Way

Catherine Deneuve doing what I sense is a soft hidden tragic role and film. 

Out of the Furnace

Christian Bale in yet another dark film, but I can’t complain. 

Pillow Secrets

Looks harsh with a sprinkle of intrigue, and for an Arabic film that isn’t too common. 

Stable Unstable

Again, I am always interested in non-war Arab films. Lives of others and a therapist. Seems light though, but that’s ok as I am not expecting to be blown away, but interested to see where it goes. 

Stray Dogs

Very dark, very slow, VERY patient film that has already received lots of awards and seems to be heart breaking, no, devastating. 


Comedy, drama, relationships, awkward silences in this non cliché road trip type film? (Can I even call it that if they are divorced but hadn’t interacted for 15 years until their kid got hurt?) With a funny cameo by a Serge Lopez thrown in with a director and writer who can mix emotions in a natural way will make this unique I think. 


First feature for its director Jae-Han Kin. I’m not into the thriller aspect of it, yet in the past, films from the Far East have been very good and some of my favorites at the festival. 

Under the Starry Sky

A trek across Africa by Senegalese director (Dyana Gaye) who’s older films have received good praise. I missed her last film at DIFF so this could be my chance to see her work.

Special Note - Short Films


The Deep

I will end the list recommending the short films listed under Arabian Nights and Muhr Arab Shorts sections which look very decent. The calibre of the Arab directors selected this year has really developed. 

Wael Hattar 


Thanks Wael. And in case you missed it, here are my top 25 picks of Arab films and top 25 international films to see at this year's film festival.