With 72 feature-length films and 56 shorts, the 3rd edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (previously Middle East International Film Festival) celebrated a diverse slate of films from 49 countries, among which 24 were world premieres. Chosen from nearly 1,200 submissions, half of the films in the program came from the Middle East. With more than 30,000 Festival attendees, Abu Dhabi once again buzzed with excitement over a period of ten days; adding to the glamour of the event was a star-studded red carpet that included stars Demi Moore, Freida Pinto, Hilary Swank, Hend Sabry, Naomi Watts, Eva Mendes and Orlando Bloom. Making hospitality a key theme, the Festival offered a unique experience for its many guests, with 76 film directors, 245 industry professionals and 480 accredited press in attendance.
Cementing its commitment to bolstering Arab cinema, ADFF provided completion funding for three films: Son of Babylon by Mohamed Al Daradji; Port of Memory by Kamal Al Jafari; and We Were Communists by Maher Abi Samra. All three films were screened at the Festival and went on to win numerous international awards. Arab cinema was further celebrated through the Festival’s showcase of compelling works by leading Arab directors, including Elia Suleiman, who received Variety’s coveted Middle East Filmmaker of the Year accolade and won the award for Best Middle Eastern Narrative Film for his The Time That Remains.
Other highlights from the 2009 edition were an extensive retrospective of new works from Turkish cinema and a special selection of silent comedies, including works by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, with live keyboard accompaniment, presented as part of a fun-filled family program.