I recently had the good fortune to attend the 8th edition of the annual Dubai International Film Festival (or DIFF as it’s referred to in the trade) -in fact, the first film festival I’ve attended as a cinema journalist.
It’s a strange experience, attending your first film festival. Any preconceptions of hobnobbing with celebrity guests under the blazing sun of an exotic, far-away climate are swiftly shattered. For one, you’re based almost exclusively in rooms; the stars are secreted out of the way for the most part; and for those who haven’t done it before, it’s overwhelming, even intimidating. However, it’s also a tremendous character-building experience, and to attend a film festival that’s, comparatively, still in its infancy, is a fascinating thing. (And on a flippant note, receiving your first ever press pass is damn cool.)
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, DIFF aims to cross borders and transcend boundaries. And this year, the festival kicked off with a bang by hosting the world premiere of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol -a major coup for the festival that saw Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Anil Kapoor hit the red carpet.
The festival reflects an exciting merger between west and east. Throughout the week, patrons, press and special guests flip-flopped between Hollywood and world cinema, from a conversation with Owen Wilson (receiving an award from Variety Dubai) to a lively chat with famed Eygptian director Mohammed Khan. The continent spanning implications of DIFF are borne out in Dubai itself: a city where Western extravagance meets the rich heritage of the Middle East. It really is one of the great meeting points of the world -and the festival follows suit.
Such vignettes are what make the festival what it is: contradictory, exciting and always changing. Just like Dubai itself, in fact. The ethos is perhaps best summed up in an article from the Khaleej Times, comparing and contrasting the star voltage of one Tom Cruise with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Both men are able to command huge audiences on either side of the globe, and at DIFF 2011, said audiences were able to come together. It’s a testament to the festival that they come together in a spirit of kindness, bound together by love of cinema.
During the festival, I caught up with English actress and filmmaker, Victoria Borasio, now based in Dubai. She shared here thoughts on DIFF:
VB: My name is Victoria Borasio and I’m from Tunbridge Wells. I lived and trained in London and studied with Lamda and Guidhall for many years, doing speech and drama training. I moved to Dubai about four years ago. Principally, I’m an actress, and in the last couple of years I’ve started to write and produce films in the UAE. I recently wrapped a short film entitled Red Inside, on which I acted as producer. I’ve also been involved as a producer and one of the lead actors on pilot for a TV series called Checking In, which will hopefully get picked up very soon.
I’ve recently filmed a series for NBC which is due for release in January and I’m currently looking for funding for a film called The Hidden Reason. It’s based in the UAE, in Dubai, and centers on a girl from the UK who is coming to terms with her past, and what happened to her mother, who was emotionally and psychologically abused. The girl is coming to terms with how it has affected her personally, although she’s tried to hide it.
SW: So what drew you to the UAE from the UK, particularly in terms of filmmaking?
VB: Well, my husband is an eye surgeon and formerly used to work at Moorfields in London. We came out to Dubai because Moorfields opened up a branch here and wanted him to be a consultant here.
SW: Is there an appeal to short films, because your film, The Hidden Reason, as I understand it, is a 15 minute short, is that right?
VB: That’s right. I mean, Dubai for me is an amazing location to be as an actress and filmmaker. The opportunities aren’t as vast as they are in the UK, but the competition isn’t as great. So, potentially, I have more opportunities as an actress here. And also to be at the forefront of the emerging UAE market is very exciting!
SW: And what do you make of the film festival itself and the opportunities it affords?
VB: Excellent networking! That’s what it’s all about! Sad to say, I’ve not seen much of the festival itself because I’ve been filming Red Inside. Incidentally, people can find out more about The Hidden Reason online at www.victoriaborasio.com.