(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for Abu Dhabi Film Festival

…اضواء، كاميرا — Lights, Camera…

Four short and thirteen feature films ago, I settled into my first of many screenings at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, all like little lessons (intentional or not) about the places they’re from It was Wrecked, the almost wordless struggle of Adrian Brody against amnesia, a shattered leg, and some sort of lion or cougar, and who finds himself trapped one morning in a totaled car with a bunch of dead people. The star was there in the kind of silly fedora worn by people that have never actually had any of those problems. That’s good acting.

The next day, I saw a beautiful Chilean documentary putting in parallel the endless search of astronomers for scientific truth and of wives and mothers for loved ones lost to the Pinochet dictatorship. And I saw a 3-D documentary matinée— Cane Toads: The Conquest, a lesson about the threat of the billions of lazily poisonous frogs conquering Australia from coast to coast. Guess which one I remember better.

The following afternoon: I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You , a fictionalized documentaryish travelogue about forgotten northeastern Brazil, filmed without a gameplan on an array of recording media. A lot of footage of road just going by with narration in singsongy Portuguese. Nap time.

Also that Sunday was the much anticipated Never Let Me Go, based on a bestseller by someone about English boarding school children raised until their early twenties to be disposable organ donors. Spoiler alert: it sucks.

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Miss Dial and Mr. Right

The United Arab Emirates, I am certain, has the highest ratio of wrong numbers dialed in the entire known universe. If Yellow Book made a guide for Abu Dhabi, it would have every number on one page with the heading: JUST GUESS. At least once every day, I answer calls from India, from Senegal, and from all over the Emirates unsure if I’ve ordered something or could somehow be the least bit useful to the mumbler on the other end of the line. Because of language barriers and the fact that everyone in the UAE is actually calling all the same people, you’re never sure until you’re asked: “Sanjay?”
No. This isn’t Sanjay.

Text messages rain in from banks, clubs, stalkers, vampires (just guessing about the last two), often divulging more information than they should because you’ve got someone’s old number. Your statement is ready for the Dubai Islamic Bank account beginning 4299 and ending 8654. Even banks have trouble finding Mr. Right.

Or maybe this is actually the vanguard of sketchy advertising. Hey! That’s not me, I can see myself saying. But you guys do text message banking? I’m listening.

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival, too, tests the limits of ethical sales tactics with its website — complete with the single most aggressive shopping cart in the whole wide web.

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