The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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East & West meet in film fest

Dubai, Dec. 7 (Reuters): Hollywood star Orlando Bloom topped the list of celebrities walking the red carpet on Monday at the first Dubai International Film Festival, which hopes to be a 'cultural bridge' between East and West.

The 27-year-old English actor, who starred in blockbusters like Troy and Lord of the Rings trilogy, mingled with Indian film luminaries and a host of Arab cinema names who had deserted the simultaneous Cairo film festival for the glitz of Dubai.

'The main aim is to form a bridge between East and West and to make Dubai the new Arab cinema centre,' UAE director Nayla al-Khaja said at the glittering opening ceremony.

Arab actors old and young, from the ageing Egyptian grandees in their twilight years such as Nadia al-Gindy and Samir Sabry to Syrian comic Doreid Lahham and new faces from the hosting United Arab Emirates, made pilgrimage to the Gulf metropolis.

'Cross-cultural exchange is a good idea in general,' said Gindy, whose age is the subject of much media speculation.

'I'm leaving, I can't stay here,' rival and one-time star Nelly fumed in anger at being placed several rows back from the other Arab actors.

Bloom sat nearby in prime position at the centre of the elaborate theatre decked in lavish Oriental style, surrounded by a group of English actors from the Rings trilogy. The festival is being staged in a luxurious hotel, whose canals and traditional buildings resemble Venice meets Arabia.

Organisers hope the festival, which has cost some $6 million to stage and seen heavy international promotion, will take centrestage in Arab cinema, long dominated by Cairo, and form a meeting place for Arab and international film industries.

Later this week, Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's 12 will screen one night after its world premiere and Hollywood stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Morgan Freeman and producer Harvey Weinstein will make the trip to attend the December 6-11 festival.

French actor Nicolas Cazale, Indian director Gurinder Chadha, Indian star Anil Kapoor and South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu will also fly in to Dubai, a cosmopolitan city of Arabs, Asians and Europeans, marked regionally by its open lifestyle.

The festival includes films being shown to Arab audiences for the first time that touch on the thorny issue of relations with the US and Israel.

One, Antonia Bird's acclaimed The Hamburg Cell, reconstructs the plot by Arab nationals to carry out the September 11 attacks which killed around 3,000 people in US cities.

A number of films concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict contain Hebrew dialogue. The UAE, like most Arab countries, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

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