This Thursday, October 24, sees the start of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which runs through Saturday, November 2nd. One of several film events to launch in the United Arab Emirates within the past decade, the fest began in 2007 as the Middle East International Film Festival before rebranding to its more geographically specific designation in 2010. This year’s edition, its seventh, promises nearly 100 features and over 70 shorts, representing more than 50 countries, and showing a particular emphasis on work from the Arab world. Among this line-up are 20 feature documentaries reflecting a mix of internationally recognized films from festivals like Cannes, Sundance, Venice, and Tribeca, as well as several premieres.
Abu Dhabi’s Documentary Competition includes more than a dozen films, including a couple of city symphonies: Sherief Elkatsha’s portrait of the Egyptian capital, CAIRO DRIVE; and Kasim Abid’s look at life on the streets of several Arab cities, WHISPERS OF THE CITIES. Geographical locations are also the concern of Francesco Conversano and Nene Grignaffini’s WALLS, a comparison of the territorial borders. Julie Bertuccelli’s SCHOOL OF BABEL (pictured) looks at the learning experiences of a diverse group of young immigrants to France. The personal cost of resistance and revolution is explored in both Hamza Aouni’s EL GORT, an intimate, multiple-year exploration of Tunisia before and after the revolution; and Mohammad Soueid’s HANGING DATES UNDER ALEPPO’S CITADEL, about a Syrian man’s personal stake in the ongoing Syrian uprising.
Feature docs also appear in the festival’s Showcase, a panorama of international films. Several of these are also eligible for the environmentally-themed Our World Competition, including, among others: Douglas Kass’ EMPTYING THE SKIES (pictured), following dedicated activists as they set out to halt illegal poaching that threatens songbirds with extinction; Raoul Peck’s FATAL ASSISTANCE, an exposé on failed humanitarian efforts in post-earthquake Haiti; and Lech Kowalski’s HOLY FIELD HOLY WAR, documenting the struggle between Polish farmers and encroaching fracking.