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Abu Dhabi Hosts Inaugural Middle East International Film Festival

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- Film Festival

Tuesday, October 8--------Launching a major international film festival in less than six months time is, among other things, a major crap shoot (can one get the films, the celebrtities and the industry movers and shakers on board?). When the announcements began coming out on the inaugural Middle East International Film Festival, there were skeptics in the roving band of film festival circuit wanderers who openly questioned whether an event of magnitude could be pulled off in such a short period of time. However, now that the details of the event are coming to the surface, it is clear that the Festival, hosted by the city-state of Abu Dhabi, is going to make major waves on the international scene and is establishing itself in its first year as a cultural event of instant status. The economic pockets are certainly deep for the film's impressive launch budget, but it takes more than money to pull off such an affair. And based on the announcements received, the team of Nashwa Al-Ruwaini (Executive Director), Jon Fitzgerald (Festival Director) and Nancy Collett (Program Director) are indeed pulling an impressive rabbit out of the hat.

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The Festival will kick off on Sunday, October 14th with a gala presentation of the UK film ATONEMENT, based on the award-winning novel by Ian McEwan. The film follows a several decades romance that begins in the summer of 1935, when 13-year-old Briony Tallis observes a flirtation between a servant's son, Robbie, and her older sister, Cecilia, that she childishly misconstrues. Briony's misunderstanding leads to a terrible crime whose consequences follow them through World War II. The film is directed by Joe Wright, who brought Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to the screen last year, and stars Keira Knightley (star of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE) and James McAvoy (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND). The director and the two leading stars are expected to attend the Gala Red Carpet Opening, with veteran choreographer Otis Sallid directing both the Opening Night and Closing Night Galas’ dance numbers.

The Festival is presenting an impressive roster of Special Presentations, which include some of the most talked-about films of the current season. They include:

• I’M NOT THERE, directed by Academy Award®-nominee Todd Haynes. This expressionistic pastiche on the life of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, features an all-star cast including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julianne Moore, and Michelle Williams.

• REDACTED, directed by Brian De Palma. Returning to his low budget roots, De Palma has crafted a contemporary thriller that shows the dark side of the Iraq conflict, as US soldiers commit heinous acts in a desperate attempt to survive yet another day in a cataclysmic war zone.

• RENDITION, directed by Gavin Hood. A chilling contemporary drama based on the US policy of "extreme rendition", sending suspected terrorists to third party countries for intense interrogations not allowed under US law. In this intense drama, an Egyptian-born terror suspect disappears on a flight from South Africa to Washington DC . His American wife, Isabella (played by Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon) tries to learn the reason for his disappearance. Meanwhile, at a secret detention facility, CIA analyst Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is forced to question his assignment as he becomes a party to the unorthodox interrogation and torture.

• ROMAN DE GARE, directed by Academy Award®-winner Claude Lelouch. A Cannes Film Festival hit about a female writer who crosses paths with a serial killer, the film stars Dominique Pinon, Fanny Ardant, and Audrey Dana.

The Middle East International Film Festival – Abu Dhabi (MEIFF) is a cultural event dedicated to bringing a diverse slate of international films and programs to the community and introducing filmmakers from around the world to the resources of the region. Presented by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), MEIFF is committed to nurturing relationships and providing opportunities to those looking to invest in the future of film. In this regard, the Festival will launch the inaugural Film Financing Circle (FFC), which will become a significant annual conference on the subject of international co-productions. For more information on the Festival, its programs and special events, visit their website: www.meiff.com.

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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