Three things one does not expect to see at a movie in the Middle East

And that would be depictions of illicit medication use, female bare torsos and, well, an elongated scene of a personal nature, if you know what I mean. And by depictions of drug use, I mean Sir Ben Kingsley playing a wayward psychiatrist wielding a giant water bong in The Wackness. Bare bosums popped up in Spike Lee's Miracle at St Anna and the personal scenes were in many, many films, including the Swedish vampire tale Let the Right One In.

The Middle East International Film Festival, running until Sunday, has brought a welcome wave of culture and star power to Abu Dhabi this week. It's only the second one, it's offering the biggest prize pot – $1 million to be shared among winners – and it looks like it will be an annual event.

It was strange though, after six months in the country, to watch some of these films. Things are so much more chaste here, with even major kissing cut out of most television and cinema. I had become so used to the overt nature of pop culture back home, I found myself really noticing whenever things were racy. I also wonder why some of the films were not censored, and others were (or seemed to be, you never can really tell, though sometimes when watching a movie here two people who are just talking will suddenly be all sweaty and laying down). But mine is to not ask why.

The film festival has been a lot of fun, with stars turning up all over town: Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda and, for some strange reason, Meg Ryan, who does not have a film or any other product here. Adrien Brody, here for The Brothers Bloom, which opened the festival, told one of The National's reporters no one recognised him as he wandered around Carrefour trying to find a SIM card so his phone would work. The celebs seem genuinely impressed with the region - mainly the massive scale of development here. Antonio Banderas, here trying to drum up Arab financing for a film project on Boabdil, the last Muslim king of Spain, yelled out to Brody during his interview that he needed to go to Dubai because "it's like going in the future 200 years!"

Comments

tobasco said…
Funny that it's less censored than it was 10 years ago for sure.

I remember movies being way shorter as they'd cut scenes that even just mention anything sexual lol but that was then and this is now...

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