The inaugural Dublin Arabic Film Festival (DAFF), with the Arab Irish Chamber of Commerce as one of its principal sponsors, ran from May 8th – 11th at the Lighthouse Cinema. The legendary Omar Sharif attended the opening reception and was welcomed by Miniser for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan and DAFF President, Jim Sheridan.
The large crowd of admiring fans was enthralled by Mr. Sharif’s presence confirming that he has lost none of his “star quality”.
Minister Deenihan recounted Omar’s many great achievements in the film world and praised the positive role he has played over the years in projecting a positive and broader awareness of Arabic culure and society around the world. The reception was followed by a special screening of its guest of honour Omar Sharif’s critically-acclaimed, and Golden Globe nominated, Monsieur Ibrahim (2003).
In conversation with Jim Sheridan following the showing of Monsieur Ibrahim, Omar Sharif recalled his first big success in Lawrence of Arabia, and he spoke with admiration and warmth for his close friend Peter O’Toole whose recent death had saddened him very much.
The movie Monsieur Ibrahim received a loud round of applause from the audience who loved it, and in which Omar Sharif displayed what Jim Sheridan called “a master class in acting”.
Jim Sheridan, DAFF President; Zhara Moufid, Festival Director; Jimmy Deenihan T.D., Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Omar Sharif, Acting Legend.
Filmmaker Jim Sheridan, president of DAFF, commented that the launch of the festival coincides with “the first really good year for Arab cinema worldwide,” with three Arab films nominated in separate categories at this year’s Academy Awards.
“I think we’re coming in at the right time. It’s not a political thing, they’re just the best films out there,” Sheridan added.
The festival also included viewings of other Arabic films of note at the Lighthouse Cinema as well as viewings of Lawrence of Arabia and The Yacoubian Building at the Chester Beatty Library.
There was an almost surreal experience for those attending the showing of Lawrence of Arabia as Omar Sharif himself appeared at the start and addressed the audience before the film commenced! He again paid special tribute to Peter O’Toole his “great friend”.
The Yacoubian Building was equally well received with one viewer declaring “this was the best Arab film I have ever seen, up there with Lawrence, and one of the richest I have ever seen”.
Lion of the Desert, a powerful film about the exploits of one of Libya’s greatest heroes, Omar Mukthar, and his rebellion against Italian occupation, was described as “having some of the best and most realistic battle scenes ever filmed”. It was followed by an extended discussion between Jim Sheridan and Dr. Jim Swire, who tragically lost his daughter in the Lockerbie bombing and has spent more than 25 years fighting to unearth the truth behind the disaster. He has become convinced that there was no Libyan involvement in the tragedy and Jim Sheridan confirmed that he intends to make a movie about the event in close collaboration with Dr. Swire.
Another guest of honour who attended the festival was the acclaimed Egyptian director, Ahmad Abdallah, whose film Rags and Tatters provided a complex, nuanced, modern day drama about the protests in Tahrir Square in 2013. The audience loved the film and enjoyed the informative and enlightening interview of the director with Jim Sheridan which followed afterwards.
The Festival closed to a packed house for the showing of the acclaimed Palestinian film Omar which was attended by the producer Waleed Zuaiter, who had come to Dublin as a special guest of the DAFF.
A political thriller and love story set in the Palestinian territories, the film earned the director, Abu-Assad, his second Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards this year. The film won a jury prize at Cannes and was selected to show at the Toronto and New York film festivals. In her review of Omar, Huffington Post’s E. Nina Rothe enthused: “It is said that a great film should make you walk out of the cinema feeling like a better person.
But with his latest oeuvre Omar, Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad made me want to be a better person.” A lively discussion with Jim Sheridan afterwards brought the Festival to an end on a very high note.
The inaugural Dublin Arabic Film Festival was considered to be a wonderful success by sponsors, film-goers and all concerned. We at the Arab Irish Chamber of Commerce were delighted to be associated with this significant Arab-Irish cultural event, and we look forward to a bigger and more diverse festival in 2015.
For more information about the programme, events and special guests, go to : www.dublinarabicfilmfestival.ie,
You can read more about the Dublin Arabic Film Festival in the Spring issue of the Arab Irish Journal below: