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Film Professionals and Directors Share Insights into Independent Filmmaking and Screenwriting at ADFF 2011

Today (October 16), festival-goers can enjoy two special events at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF), which provide unique opportunities to get insider perspectives on different aspects of filmmaking.

Beyond Hollywood and Bollywood: The Future of Independent Cinema in the Region is a panel discussion featuring film industry decision-makers with close connections to the region. Experts from international sales companies and regional distributors discuss the types of films they are drawn to, their relationships with film festivals and the decision-making process behind deals for films in the MENA region. This special event takes place at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's Saker Ballroom A, at 11:00 a.m.

Michael Brandt and Derek Haas are the writing team behind such hit films as Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma. Their latest writing collaboration and Brandt's directorial debut The Double stars Richard Gere, Topher Grace and Martin Sheen, and had its world premiere at the Festival last night (Saturday, October 15). From Script to Screen: Writing and Directing is a candid conversation with Brandt and Haas as they discuss how they broke into the business and offer advice on writing and directing feature films. Taking place at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's Al Saker Ballroom A, 2:30 p.m.

Preparations are underway at the Abu Dhabi Theater for tonight's red carpet Gala Screening of The Moth Diaries, which will be attended by director Mary Harron, actress and model Lily Cole, and actress Sarah Bolger. Still coming to terms with the suicide of her beloved father, Rebecca (Bolger) eagerly returns to her all-girls boarding school - and her closest friend Lucy (Sarah Gadon). Soon, Lucy comes under the sway of the sinister new girl, Ernessa (Cole). The Moth Diaries is a contemporary Gothic tale that provocatively explores the female coming-of-age experience. Begins at 9:30 p.m.

Tonight Festival audiences are also treated to the Middle East premiere of Dark Horse, the highly anticipated new film by American indie director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness). Abe is a thirtysomething mama's boy with little interest in anything besides his toy collection. When he meets Miranda, he mistakes her near-comatose responses to him as proof they're kindred spirits. A black-comic look at a contemporary American society spinning its wheels, screening at VOX 6, at 6:30 p.m.
Today's Waterfront Film is Lucky, the affecting story of an orphaned Zulu boy struggling to find a future in the harsh urban landscape of Durban, with the reluctant
help of an untrusting Indian widow. Based on director Avie Luthra's BAFTA-nominated 2005 short, it's both a spirited coming-of-age drama and a frank portrait of contemporary South Africa. Waterfront Films are screened at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's beach, 7:30 p.m. and are free of charge.

The Festival program tonight also brings the world premiere of South African director Timothy Greene's new work Skeem. Greene milks plenty of madcap mayhem from this farce about a motley collection of small-time crooks and greedy holidaymakers at a rundown resort. Propelled by a strong ensemble cast, Skeem gleefully runs roughshod over cultural hang-ups and knowingly depicts a multiracial nation behaving badly. Screening at 9:00 p.m., VOX 1.

Selected for the New Horizons Competition for first and second feature films, Hicham Lasri's The End is marking its international premiere tonight. In gritty black and white, and set in Casablanca, July 1999, with longtime monarch Hassan II on his deathbed, the film depicts an air of uncertainty weighing on Morocco - and especially on one marginalized young man, M'key, who discovers a dark tie between the enchanting Rita and his surrogate father, police commissioner Daoud. An ambitious and electrifying declaration of a new talent to watch. The End is shown at 6:45 p.m., at VOX 4.

Also in the New Horizons competition, Lisa Aschan's debut feature She Monkeys is distinctively wrought with haunting rural settings and potent performances. As two 15-year-old girls compete for a spot on the local equestrian acrobatics troupe, their friendship twists into a rivalry that reveals dark dimensions in their nascent personalities. This screening takes place at 9:15 p.m., VOX 4.

Today's Showcase Lineup opens with revered Italian director Giovanni Veronesi's The Ages of Love, starring Robert De Niro and Monica Bellucci. The Ages of Love is the third in Veronesi's beloved Manuale d'amore series. The film is a charming romantic comedy in three parts, one of which centers on an American scholar (De Niro) who finds a new lease on life with a beautiful young woman (Bellucci) in Rome. Shown at 6:15 p.m., at the Abu Dhabi Theatre.

Prof. Alessandra Priante, Cultural Attaché for the Gulf Area, Embassy of Italy in Abu Dhabi commented on the film: "We are very proud that this year the Abu Dhabi Film Festival has decided to give attention to the best of Italian cinema. This is what we could define as an Italian blockbuster with quality. Veronesi is probably the most popular contemporary Italian director, able to depict the elements of Italian society with excellent films and stellar casts."

Warrior, by Gavin O'Connor, focuses on the Conlon brothers - one a troubled ex- Marine, the other a teacher facing financial ruin - who have been estranged from each other and their alcoholic father for years. A big-money championship in the brutal world of mixed martial arts offers an answer to their problems… Tom Hardy,
Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte deliver unforgettable performances in this high-intensity action drama, screening at 9:15 p.m., VOX 6.

Today's Showcase program is rounded off by Peter Torbiörnsson's Last Chapter - Goodbye Nicaragua. In 1984, a bomb went off during a press conference with guerrilla leader Edén Pastora at a rebel outpost in the Nicaragua-Costa Rica frontier. Seven died and nearly two dozen were wounded. One survivor, Swedish journalist Peter Torbiörnsson, finally breaks his silence 25 years later. Last Chapter - Goodbye Nicaragua is screened at 9:30 p.m., VOX 8.

The day's highlight in Documentary Competition is The Tiniest Place, a film centered on the tiny town of Cinquera, which was nearly wiped off the map during El Salvador's 12-year civil war. Beginning in 1979, before the war, director Tatiana Huezo tells the remarkable story of the survivors who returned to their town and resurrected their lives at the end of the conflict. Shown at 6:45 p.m., VOX 8.

This afternoon, the Festival's Our World Competition for films that raise awareness of environmental issues presents Project Nim, the new documentary by Oscar®- winning director James Marsh (Man on Wire). At the heart of Project Nim is the story of a chimpanzee who was part of a linguistics experiment in the '70s. If taken into a family and raised as though he were a human child, could Nim develop language? This extraordinary biopic is screened at 6:30 p.m., at VOX 3.

A fine example of early Arab avant-garde filmmaking, Oh the Days! (1978), by Ahmed El Maanouni, is part of this year's selection from Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s to Now, a special program co-organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and ArteEast. The 1978 film tells the story of a young peasant who dreams of breaking away from a life of poverty in the Moroccan countryside. The first Moroccan film to screen at Cannes, Oh The Days! is an authentic portrait of rural life, filmed with the sustained attentiveness of a documentary. This screening takes place at 9:30 p.m. at VOX 2.

Mahfouz - Man of Cinema, the Festival's retrospective of the seminal Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, continues today with a special screening of Fools' Alley, Tawfik Saleh's debut feature, considered one of the most important Egyptian films of the '50s. In an archetypal Egyptian neighborhood, Taha works hard to put aside enough money to marry his beloved Khadija, but when the necessary funds suddenly become available there is an unexpected turn of events. Fools' Alley is shown at 9:45 p.m., VOX 3.

The Emirates Film Competition (EFC) offers audiences a unique opportunity to sample short films produced by both newcomers and established filmmakers from the Gulf region. Today's two programs focus on short narratives and are sure to open windows on history, culture and daily life in this vibrant part of the world. EFC 3 Student Short Narratives begins at 12:45 p.m. and EFC 2 Short Narratives 2 starts at 6:15 p.m., both at VOX 2.

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