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What to Watch | DIFF 2016

Considering how much of a movie buff I am, it is rather surprising that it took me 13 years to finally attend DIFF, i.e the Dubai International Film Festival. This is the first year I’ll be attending not one, not two, but at least four screenings and maybe a few more impromptu ones.


DIFF has matured over the years with bigger stars attending and movies premiering here; and this year’s program might be the best one yet. DIFF primarily takes place at Madinat Jumeirah with red carpet gala screenings show at the Madinat Arena. Other screenings take place at Mall of Emirates and the outdoor cinema at The Beach. And with tickets starting at AED 35 (and AED 100 for the galas), it’s an affordable way to spend the week. Plus there are talks and roundtables with actors, directors and those in the business that you can also attend.

In past years, DIFF has snuck on me and I’ve never had enough time to plan as it can be overwhelming with so many options. So here’s a “beginners viewing guide” for the 13th Annual Dubai Film Festival. Disclaimer: these are all fairly “commercial” so if you’re looking for more artsy picks, please visit the DIFF guide for more information.

Befikre – Thursday, December 8 – 7 pm

The main reason I’m attending DIFF this year is for the world premiere of Befikre – the Bollywood film starring Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor and directed by Aditya Chopra. Ranveer Singh has been bae since he debuted with Band Baaja Baarat and I’ve loved him in Lootera. This one is touted to be Bollywood’s first “romantic comedy” which is surprising considering the majority of Bollywood movies are romances. But they all have a big dose of drama so I’m looking forward to light, fun movie, which as a bonus is fully shot in France.

Their Finest – Friday, December 9, 9:30 pm

I admit I can be convinced to watch a movie purely on the casting. After watching Love, Rosie and Me Before You, I’m a major Sam Claflin fan and this World War II romantic comedy stars him alongside Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy. The movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year and has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 75% so far suggesting this will be worth the watch.

La La Land – Saturday, December 10, 1:30 pm

Possibly the movie I’m most excited about this year. Buzz has been building for this Emma Stone-Ryan Gosling romantic musical comedy/drama since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival, with Oscar buzz building for Stone. At a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating, this might be one of the best movies of the year with DIFF hosting its MENA premiere.

Nocturnal Animals – Monday, December 12, 9:30 pm

This Tom Ford-directed drama is his 2nd film after A Single Man, which I admit was hard for me to get through but I can’t resist anything with Amy Adams (I still need to watch Arrival). This is a neo-noir psychological thriller that won the Grand Jury Prize when it premiered at the Venice International Festival. Friends who’ve seen it in the US are declaring it a must-watch.

While these are the ones I’ve already picked up my tickets for (Dollz Tip – use your Emirates NBD card for Buy One, Get One Free and buy them from the DIFF website), if my schedule allows, there are a few more I’d suggest:

  • Collateral Beauty – Tuesday, December 13: The Will Smith drama looks interesting from the trailer and the ensemble cast featuring Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Naomie Harris.
  • The Founder – Saturday, December 10: This Michael Keaton starrer is a biographical drama about Ray Croc, i.e. the founder of McDonald’s. Currently at 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Miss Sloane – Wednesday, December 7 & Sunday, December 11: The Jessica Chastain starrer is opening DIFF this year and you can catch the 2nd screening later in the week. Currently at 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Jackie – Saturday, December 10 & Wednesday, December 14: They are calling this Natalie Portman’s finest performance yet and her next Oscar. Both screenings are already sold out but do keep an eye out for standby tickets.

Are you visiting DIFF this year? Make sure to follow me on Snapchat to see red carpet sightings and instant reviews!

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