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ADFF Presents Master Class with Todd Solondz and Roundtable on Filmmaking in the Arab Spring

Today (Monday, October 17, 2011), the Abu Dhabi Film Festival presents a highly anticipated Master Class with Todd Solondz, the multi-award winning American filmmaker noted for character-driven, dark comedies such as Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), Happiness (1998) and Life During Wartime (2009). Solondz continues to write and direct edgy, provocative independent films and presented his most recent feature, Dark Horse, at the Festival last night (October 16). This special event takes place at 11:00 a.m. at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's Saker Ballroom A.

This afternoon, the Festival also invites the public to join a panel discussion about The Arab Spring and its Effects on Filmmaking. Acclaimed filmmakers from the Middle East and North Africa will gather to discuss how regional cinema has responded to the recent wave of political and social upheaval. Have rules of production changed? Are we to expect a new artistic paradigm? This event is held at 2:30 p.m., at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr's Saker Ballroom A.

Last night (Sunday, October 16), the Abu Dhabi Film Festival inaugurated the newly launched Black Pearl Rising Star Award, which will from now on be presented each year to young actors who have given proof of their talent and can be considered major emerging talents on the international cinema scene.

The 2011 Black Pearl Rising Star Award went to the three young protagonists of Mary Harron's The Moth Diaries. Sarah Bolger (Rebecca) first appeared on film in Spiderwick Chronicles, and played Queen Mary in the TV-series, The Tudors. Lily Cole (Ernessa) is combining a successful acting career with that of a top model. She made her screen debut in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Sarah Gadon (Lucie) also appears in another Festival selection, A Dangerous Method, under David Cronenberg's direction and has a major role in the Canadian master's next film, Cosmopolis.The award was presented by Egypt's Khaled Abol Naga, the multi-talented actor-producer-journalist, ahead of a Gala Screening of The Moth Diaries at the Abu Dhabi Theater last night.

Tonight's red carpet event is the world premiere of Asma'a, the long-awaited second feature by Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama. The director will be accompanied on the red carpet by producers Mohamed Hefzy and Bushra along with members of the cast including Maged El Kedwani and Hend Sabry. Asma'a (Sabry) is a struggling single mother with a secret. In a world where HIV/AIDS is still stigmatized, it takes the fateful intervention of TV show host Mohsen (El Kedwany), to teach Asma'a to speak out and fight back - both against her illness and against the ignorance of society. 6:30 p.m., Abu Dhabi Theater.

A Dangerous Method, the new feature by David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises), is also screened tonight at the Abu Dhabi Theater. Under the guise of a period piece, A Dangerous Method somewhat cheekily looks at how the Freudian schism between the selfish and the social informs an affair between psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) - while Freud himself (Viggo Mortensen) looks on. Screening at 9:30 p.m., Abu Dhabi Theater.

One of the contenders in the Narrative Feature Competition, On the Edge chronicles the lives of two girls from Casablanca, who spend their days in a dreary factory in Old Tangier, dreaming of brighter prospects. Their lives take a new turn when they team up with two textile workers from the Free Zone for a dodgy money-making scheme. On the Edge was supported by the Festival's SANAD fund and won awards at the Taormina Film Festival for best film, best director and best ensemble cast. 7:00 p.m., VOX 6.

The Documentary Competition, meanwhile, presents the international premiere of Girl Model, a provocative documentary about a dark, seldom-seen segment of the modeling industry seen from two opposite angles: that of a professional scout, eager to recruit the youngest girls possible, and that of a naive 13-year-old from Siberia, to whom modeling seems like a great way to support her poor family. 6:30 p.m., VOX 4.

From 1967 to 1975, a group of Swedish journalists traveled to the United States to report on the burgeoning Black Power movement, but the footage they captured remained locked away for 30 years. Now this rich collection of 16mm film has been unearthed and assembled with present-day interviews featuring artists and activists. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is screened at 9:00 p.m., VOX 4 and will be followed by a Q&A with its director Göran Hugo Olsson.

This year the Showcase selection brings the international premiere of Bobby Fischer Against the World to Abu Dhabi. Unearthing a treasure trove of archive material, Academy Award®-nominated director Liz Garbus presents a captivating portrait of the world's greatest chess player, whose talent is often overshadowed by his sensational legacy. Fischer's journey - from child prodigy to global superstar and finally to bitter recluse - is a walk along the tightrope between genius and madness. 9:30 p.m., VOX 2.

The Festival's retrospective Mahfouz - Man of Cinema continues today with a special screening of The Hunger (1986), which uses Egypt's fabled past as a handy cover for sharp critiques of contemporary dictatorships. Set in the 19th century, the plot centers on a weak-willed man, who comes to embody the corrupting nature of power after accidentally killing a local gangster, drawing unmistakable parallels to Egypt under more modern strongmen. 9:15 p.m., VOX 3.

To discover some of the exciting new work created by up-and-coming filmmakers from the Gulf region, don't miss today's program from the 2011 Emirates Film Competition. EFC 5 Short Documentaries 2 is screened at 6:15 p.m. at Vox 2.

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