DIFF 17! Film Will Find You

The 17th edition of DIFF commenced with the expected glam and vigor of an international film festival, topped with the warm generosity of Arabian hospitality. In contrast to my involvement last year, based partly on curiosity and partly on the enthusiasm of a rising social media star, this time the festival promised to be quite a bit more festive for me with invitations to the Opening and Closing, VIP parking a few minutes away from screenings, access to a secret lounge and rocking after parties. Read more about the Opening of DIFF ’16 over here. 

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The festival is undergoing changes but they weren’t particularly obvious to an outsider like me. Apart from usual screening programs, galas, “in conversations” and workshops, DIFF 17 features virtual reality experiences and free movies at The Beach. The Film Will Find You tagline was selected to represent the transformation of the way entertainment reaches our hearts and eyes, noting the impact of Netflix, social media algorithms and ever advancing technologies.

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The hospitality was impressive, with a large number of multilingual volunteers, complimentary coffee for press, two-for-one ticket deals, complimentary public WiFi and even bottles of Evian water left in chairs at all Gala screenings.

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While movie stars and celebrities walked the Red Carpet, I hung out with everyone’s favorite (including me) DIFF team member Brent Lawrence at the special lounge overlooking the action. Brent, in his perfect black tux, managed to participate in several conversations simultaneously, exchanging jokes and insight with a curious crowd and Dubai beauties.

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Team Harper’s Bazaar Arabia was present on the carpet spotting the best dressed. No matter how hard I tried catwalking by them or posing pretentiously, my outfit caught no attention. Regardless, I decided to keep on showing up.

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The venue for the occasion, Madinat Arena, was at its brightest. The legendary place radiates an incredible charm enhanced with search lights, candles, flowers and views on the Venice of the Middle East.

The Opening speech by Chairman Abdulhamid Juma, packed with witty remarks and his shimmering sense of humor, contained a deep idea about the human side of cinematography and the importance of art. His “dreams are future movies” quote is still being analyzed in the corners of my head. Cate Blanchett and Patrick Stewart joined on the stage, and reiterated the thought that Art will Save the World.

In contrast with the party vibe, the gala screening of Hostiles put a rather dark feeling in the audience, with no one wanting to leave their seat when credits rolled. Keep an eye for my upcoming review, but the movie was more about love than once would assume from the title.

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Straight through a dimmed room and to the right, I was stunned by the set-up for the after party. Imagine endless rows of champagne, luminous lights, Haute Couture style, a rocking band and happiness shared in every direction.

I danced, laughed, cheered and interacted with like-minded folks feeling out of the world, and in a way I truly was. Thank you Dubai Film Festival for a magical night!

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ESMOD Dubai Runway

Last night a new generation of ESMOD graduates presented the glamorous outcome of their three years of dedication to the non-glamorous side of vogue: stitching, sewing, pattern drafting, scaling and other elements often left behind the curtain. A long journey through the ins and outs of the fashion industry was visualized in a collection individually produced by each emerging designer from concept to runway. With 22 branches worldwide, ESMOD is a French Fashion Institute and a top school for design and pattern makers.

Previously set at Wafi luxury shopping mall, this year’s new venue was in contrast with local trends and unexpectedly edgy. The runway curved between wooden benches fixed on an artificial field lit by industrial lamps. At the beginning ceiling high posters created the illusion of cheering crowds. The whole space was protected by wires, fences and netting, adding a touch of a street underground culture to the upcoming event.

Backstage (I used my charming powers to sneak in) things seemed to be under control. Kid models with iPads reading The Economist (see photos below), graduating makeup artists kept busy bronzing pretty faces (including mine), and designers keeping surprisingly chilled. I managed to startle a person or two with a random flash but in general we (me + my camera) were invisible to most.

I was pulled aside by Ohoud, a graduating student of ESMOD, who applied layer after layer of magical beauty products to help me look like a true Instagram Star. Half an hour later I was transformed 🙂

Dressed by Canella in Canella Hostal Couture, a 2-piece outfit with a focus on a beautiful Geveva handmade skirt, I got surrounded by photographers who demanded me to turn, walk, sit, smile and deliver pose after a pose.

Pushed in a fancy corner, I complied.

Back at the venue, hundreds of guests including family, friends, bloggers, alumni, models, influencers, hipsters, fashionistas and other stylish Dubaians were greeted by the founders of ESMOD and stalked by me. Craving inspiration (and dinner), I scouted eye-catching pieces and people with camera in hand.

It was a whistle paired with witty comments from L. Redman that started the show. As I had never met any designers it was easy to be absolutely neutral focusing on music, fabrics, accessories, footwear, creativity, art work, etc., rather than personalities. Towards the end however I narrowed my “OMG” list to one designer and my “I want it now” list to two.

Knowing the amount of hard work every designer had invested in their first collection, it was unsurprising to see emotions on the runway. I was laughing, sobbing, clapping and snapping through the show wondering how impossible would it be to select a winner.

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Unsurprising the producer of Vancouver Fashion week, Jamal Abdourahman, chose three winners instead of one to showcase their collection during Vancouver Fashion week in September. As they say, “Winner takes all”. Congratulations!

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What’s Dubai wearing #RedCarpet, #WDWD, #DIFF2106

There’s a deep emotional connection between the two industries that produce dreams: fashion and cinematography. One appeared spontaniously in a previous millennia, probably when a cave teenager refused to wear a hat to be different, the other – invented during a series of scientific experiments in motion picture photography. Yves Saint Lauren said “Les modes passent, le style est eternal…”. The same can be said of film vs. cinema, as even the oldest Brothers Lumieres cinematography is a form of immortal art. Surprisingly though the Dubai Film Festival’s style and red carpet often drew more attention than the screenings.

Divided by four popular fashion choices, tailored gowns, “mix and match” tuxedos, fantasy outfits and traditional fusion, guests and participants united in looking effortlessly glamorous guided by dress-codes, personal taste and the work of designers. I couldn’t take my eyes off fabulous Tuba Buyukustun, a female actor from Turkey, who in her dreamy long gowns created an Art Deco illusion.

Initially spotted in a crowd of admirers, it took me a day to build the confidence to approach Eileen Level. With a straightforward mission to photograph Eileen in her incredible hat, I ended up admiring her perfectly shaped face, charismatic sense of fashion and spontaneous jokes. Come back to Dubai, girl!

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Forever-young brunette Andie MacDowell made two quite remarkable appearances during DIFF 2016. Dressed in a tailored beige trouser suit, she delivered a sharp yet very personable masterclass to a demanding audience of international media reps. Later that evening, perfect in every detail, Andie was dazzling with confidence in a dark blue sequin gown at the Global Gala.

A girl who created waves and sighs of admiration from “seen it all” red carpet pool photographers and critics alike was Jordan-based influencer Hiba Assad. Being a stunning beauty she wore an exceptional black dress with a leather like corsage and flirty skirt by Dania Dahleh.

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My own astonishing fashion crush of the year occurred when mega popular Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh stepped onto the Red Carpet looking magical in a dark violet cape on top of a 3-piece earthy suit paired with gorgeous hair and a noble mustache. For the next couple of days I ran into him striking poses in completely unrecognizable looks that could be described varyingly as edgy, fancy, hipster, posh and even conservative. Wish I was quick enough to steal his stylist’s number. See for yourself!

Glowing with happiness and timeless beauty, Shirina Fotuhi, a creative mind behind Coega sunwear marketing was in high demand at Harpers Bazaar best dressed lounge. Rushing to the premier of “Rogue One: Star Wars story”, she looked fabulously daring in her “Happy Sithmas” shirt paired with tight leggings, denim jacket from Maison Clad and stilettos.

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My choice for most entertaining Red Carpet appearance would go to English actor Bill Nighy. Striking pose after pose in his sharp dark navy suit (no tie), Bill found time for every photographer in the pool, boosting energy and encouraging bursts of laughter. His speech at “Their Finest” premier alone deserved a big shiny trophy and standing applause.

Emirati photographer Ismail Hemaid looked fantastic in a traditional dishdash empowered with enthusiasm, professionalism and a great sense of humor. Can you tell he has been working loooong hours?

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Attending DIFF 2016 has demonstrated once again the importance of attracting individuals from all over the world, who inspire, provoke debates, mentor, express and create dreams. Both cinematography and fashion are charisma driven industries and watching them in action is a lot of fun! Cheers to the great people who shape the style of entertainment:

The Siren dress by Kris Jane, an emerging designer with an artistic touch brought me luck, fame  and most importantly new followers (hooray!).

 

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Dubai International Film Festival. The Opening.

The 13th Dubai International Film festival opened last night with a red carpet screening of “Miss Sloane” by British Director John Madden (loved for “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Debt”). Surrounded by the breathtaking architecture of Madinat Jumeirah, traditional Arabian style with water canals, palm trees and a crystal clear beach, the DIFF venue resembled a Hollywood studio set from the Golden Age inspired by the tales of One Thousand and One Nights. The festival’s focus on regional talent and industry was no surprise.

At the opening, the red carpet was overflowing with guests and celebrities rushing in to the screening. Obviously there was press too, represented by leading UAE media giants like Dubai One, Gulf News, Dubai Eye and my favourite Harpers Bazaar Arabia (among others). I did on occasion feel like a sassy well-trained paparazzi snapping photos on the go.

The event was as theatrical as expected, with a ruby red carpet rolled under the stars, powerful stage lights, and beautiful people from all over the world appearing and disappearing like a dream sparkling with diamonds, confidence and haute couture outfits (incredible #WIWT by Indian actor Ranveer Singh). It was overwhelmingly exciting to spot the dangerously dazzling Olga Kurylenko (Bond girl!), the crew of “The Eagle Huntress” (amazing cinematography) and, no introduction needed, Samuel L. Jackson.

The opening ceremony started with Lifetime Achievement Awards celebrating film industry contributions. Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared, Indian actor Rekha and Samuel L. Jackson were honoured.

The premier screening, “Miss Sloane”, was an intense fast-paced political thriller focused on American political intrigue (hot topic this year!) and the controversial subject of gun control. With a strong leading female character played by Jessica Chastain (secret agent in “The Debt”), I was curious if her previous performance influenced John Madden’s decision to cast her in this role. This year’s program has been passionately selected by organizers and consisted of more than 150 movies from over 50 countries. In my opinion (it’s so personal!) other films to watch out for included: “Their Finest”, “Swallows and Amazons”, “La La Land”, “Rogue One: the Star Wars story”, “Jackie” and “Manchester by the sea” (reviews to follow). Meanwhile here are some exclusive behind the scenes photos of DIFF 13th opening night in making:

To be continued…

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