Saturday, 25 October 2008

La Aguilera

Surrounded by screaming teenagers, I started to question my decision to see Christina Aguilera live in Abu Dhabi. When she was an hour late starting, after leaving the crowd to be warmed up by a seeming karaoke winner, followed by reggae from the local DJ, that sinking feeling just grew and grew. But, when she finally did appear she belted out the tunes and all was forgiven.
She danced and pranced in an array of outfits, from tasteful white suit to spray on leopard-print leotard. During the costume changes the audience got to watch videos of her. My favourite was the one where she was all but having sex with what looked like a hookah pipe. You've got to love a woman with the guts to show that in a Muslim country!
It wasn't long before she screamed 'It's hot in Abu Dhabi'. Funny 'cos we were just commenting on how nice the weather was. But then again, I suppose she couldn't feel the nice breeze under all those lights. After a short break to introduce the band and amazing backing dancers, she followed on with 'Hurt', hitting every note perfectly and facing a sea of raised lighters. She carried on with hits from her current and past albums and even treated us to a preview from her upcoming album, which I'm sure she mimed. In fact, the more time went on, the less she was singing, relying instead on belting out occasional words. It didn't make 'Fighter', the finale, any less brilliant with silver bits showering down all around. But with no encore I think it would be fair to say Christina Aguilera came, sang and melted.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

2nd Middle East International Film Festival

MEIFF mark 2 has just ended here in Abu Dhabi and I was lucky enough not to have too much work on while the festival was in full swing. Here are some of the films I got to see (imdb links follow where available just for Shu ;)):

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a documentary that reignites your belief that you, an individual, can make a difference. It's all about the women's movement for peace in Liberia during the time of Charles Taylor. These powerful, brave women basically put an end to the civil war in their country. (imdb)

The Prisoner - an Indian film about a writer who is released from prison and hopes to start a new life after writing a new book. He loses the manuscript but finds a lot of cash and we follow him as the mix up leads him to redemption.

War Child made me want to go and build a school in Sudan. The incredible story of Emmanuel Jal and his rise to successful rapper from child soldier beginnings. (imdb)

Laila's Birthday
was at times frustrating but ended brilliantly and was also awarded Best Artistic Contribution. A day in the life of a Palestinian judge turned taxi driver, we watch as events outside his control shape the course of his day. (imdb)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - simply marvelous. Enough said. (imdb)

. What can I say? I have yet to see a Korean film that isn't weird. This was not the one to break the pattern!

Henna was the UAE's entry into the competition for best narrative feature. If it had won, I would have picketed the jury until they changed the vote. Bad. I couldn't even stay til the end. And I'll watch anything!

Perhaps if I'd watched Sleep Dealer on a different day, I might have appreciated it more, but as it came hot on the heels of a rubbish film I guess I wasn't really in the mood. I did see Jane Fonda on the way to the screening, though! (imdb)

Quiet Chaos
is a slow moving Italian film about a man whose wife dies. The story focuses on how he and his daughter cope with the loss, or rather how they seem not to notice it much. An enjoyable film but there is a totally incongruous sex scene in the middle which just doesn't fit. (imdb)

What happens when you make a documentary about the Iranian women's football team? You're banned from showing it in Iran. Football Under Cover. (imdb)

Wild Blood
(Sanguepazzo) should be given its Italain title as there were no subtitles to help me! The wonderful performances by the lead actors were all the help needed to bring back my rather rusty Italian in this tale of toing and froing among partisans towards the end of World War 2. (imdb)

Gulabi Talkies
made me feel really sad. In a small community why must people still have bias and mistrust just because of religion? Why are women still treated like chattle even in our 'modern' age? That doesn't mean that you shouldn't watch it, though, because it was very good! (Click here for a full on review)

O'Horten - who'd have thought a film about an old geezer (called Odd!) who retires from his job as a train driver would actually be entertaining?! A very enjoyable Norwegian film that looks firmly in the face of old age. (imdb)

Frozen River tells the story of a trailer park mom whose husband runs off with the money for the family's new trailer. She tries to keep things together by getting involved with smuggling. You just know that that kind of a story is going to end in tears, don't you?! (imdb)

What I liked about Beirut Open City is that it tries to dispel the myth that Lebanon is an open and secular society. The main character is an Egyptian filmmaker who is trying to confront the truth about the Arab world, believing that he will be able to do so in liberal Lebanon.

I can't really give you a full review of Time of Comrades because the (dreadful) subtitles disappeared and unfortunately my Moroccan Arabic is not good enough to follow the plot without them ;) What I did understand looked OK...

Terribly Happy
- my personal favourite of all the films I saw. The Danish director's style has been likened to the Coen brothers'. Possibly. What is for certain is that this film deserved its win at Karlovy Vary and should have got more credit here. In my humble opinion! (imdb)

, winner of the Black Pearl award and a big chunk of cash. Based on the book of the same name. A sometimes uncomfortable look at post-apartheid politics in South Africa, this film deserves praise...but I wouldn't have given it the prize! (imdb)