Abu Dhabi Film Festival Takes Over City, Inspires Film Students

NYUAD students volunteer at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, getting a behind-the-scenes look into the making of a film festival.

The red carpet has been rolled out for the fourth annual Abu Dhabi Film Festival! Taking place at various locations throughout the city, including the Emirates Palace and the Marina Mall, the nine-day festival, which began on October 14, will screen more than 170 films, from cinematic shorts and documentaries to Bollywood films and highly anticipated big-budget movies such as Secretariat.

Many in the NYU Abu Dhabi community — students and staff alike — attended the world premier of Adrien Brody's new film Wrecked and/or the Middle East premier of Never Let Me Go, based on the popular Kazuo Ishiguro novel and starring Academy Award nominees Carey Mulligan and Kiera Knightly.

Although student tickets are only 10 AED (less than 3 USD), many NYUAD students chose to volunteer to get a behind-the-scenes look into the making of a film festival. Volunteer Besik Turazashvili, NYUAD Class of 2014, said, "It is really interesting and exciting for me. I have to conduct four-minute surveys that examine the visitors' opinions and help make ADFF 2011 even better. I meet new people from all over the world, talk to them in different languages, and that is such an amazing experience."

The festival, originally known as the Middle East International Film Festival, now competes with the likes of the Dubai Film Festival and Cannes. Big-name American celebrities, such as Uma Thurman and Julianne Moore; British stars, including Clive Owen; Egyptian power-couple Mona Zaki and Ahmed Helmi; and other leading stars of the Arab world such as Khaled Abol Naga, Lebleba, Yehia El Fakharany, and Yousra were in attendance this year and happily took photos with fans. Some even appeared at meet and greets that were open to the public.

Turazashvili thinks events like the Abu Dhabi Film Festival inspire film-industry hopefuls and nurture the unique culture of the Emirates. "Thanks to the diversity of presented movies, Emirati people have a wonderful opportunity to show their culture and learn more about others' cultures through the art of cinema."

Film student Jordan Schulze, NYUAD Class of 2014, is taking part in the Iktishaf Project, a collaboration between NYUAD, neighboring Zayed University (ZU), and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Schulze will work with other NYUAD and ZU students to create several short videos — all from the student's perspective — about filmmakers and the festival to generate excitement for the festival and learn about the film industry.

Armed with a coveted press pass, Schulze attended the festival over the weekend and was so impressed he is already planning on getting involved next year. "The Abu Dhabi Film Festival was the first film festival I have ever gone to, and it has opened my eyes so that I can see the magic in every facet of film. I have enjoyed filming there, talking with directors, networking for next year, and of course watching the movies!"