The top 5 films to see at this year's DIFF

The top 5 films to see at this year's DIFF

The pictures to see – and why you should see them

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Buro 24/7 Middle East's film contributor Ben Cockram gives you the rundown on which films to see at this year's Dubai International Film Festival

The 2013 Dubai International Film Festival is just around the corner and for its 10th year -along with a huge programme of incredible Arabic features and documentaries - they have also rolled out the big guns from Hollywood. This year's programme is eclectic, and with a number of films screening that won't reach cinemas for some time, it's always hard to know which films to see. Luckily, you read Buro 24/7, and we're here to guide you through a selection of some choice screenings at this year's festival. They're all great to be honest, but your time is precious, so this crib sheet should help you in selecting the right movies to go and see...

Fruitvale Station

See this is if: You want to see the next Denzel Washington or you want to call the Oscar nomination for Best Actor early.

Plot: The film tells the tragic true story of Oakland resident Oscar Grant, a 22 year old ex-con doing his best to straighten up and be a better son, father, and boyfriend, in the final 24 hours of 2008. To reveal too much of the plot would be to ruin the impact of the piece, but suffice to say that when it was released earlier this year in the US, the synergies with the Trayvon Martin shooting were enough to give this low-budget film a huge amount of attention and critical acclaim. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year but it isn't a masterpiece - first time director Ryan Coogler shows a good eye for realism, stark shots, and well-built tension, but at times the film comes across as a little exploitative and unbalanced. What elevates this film to greatness are the performances. Octavia Spencer is captivating as Oscars mother, and Melonia Diaz is fantastic as Oscars put upon girlfriend. But Michael B Jordan owns the part of Oscar, inhabiting the character with a pathos and sympathy that allows him to elevate the character above the one-dimensional script. His Oscar Grant is flawed, impulsive, and shortsighted - which will make the anger and frustration you feel at Oscars fate all the more surprising by the time the credits roll. '12 Years a Slave' will get all the plaudits come Oscar time, but this is a far more insightful treatise on race relations in America, and demands to be seen.

When to see it: Monday, 9 Dec 2013, 08:30 PM at Madinat Arena

American Hustle

See this if:  You're a fan of 70s nylon and you want to see some of your favourite actors working at the top of their game.

Plot: As with his previous efforts like 'Three Kings', 'Silver Linings Play Book', and 'The Fighter', this David O Russell film defies easy categorisation. It tells a fictionalised version of the story of conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who was conned himself, along with partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) into working for crazed FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper, with one of the worst perms on the circuit) to help infiltrate the world of Jersey power brokers and mafia in the 70s. Russell's films often hinge less on plot and genre, and much more on character work - putting people into extraordinary situations. Bale is at the top of his game, Cooper is a massively underrated actor, and Adams is always a joy to watch. Add to that Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner, and you get the feeling that this could be a movie destined for great things. You won't see a better cast at the DIFF, so for that reason alone it's worth checking it out.

When to see it: Saturday, 14 Dec 2013, 07:00 PM at Madinat Arena 


Inside Llewyn Davis

See this if: You refuse to listen to music produced post-1968. You want to see the Coens take command of yet another genre.

Plot: The Coens, it appears, are master of all genres. Having most recently turned in two masterful westerns ('True Grit' and 'No Country For Old Men'), they turn their sights to a musical, of sorts. Boasting an array of acting and singing talent, including Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Adam Driver (from 'Girls'), John Goodman, and led by the unknown Oscar Isaac, the film is set in the now-famous Greenwich Village music scene of the early 60s. It charts a week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a Dylan-esque singer songwriter struggling to make ends meet as he battles with forces both external and internal. You don't have to love the period that it so evocatively depicts, nor do you necessarily need to love early 60s folk music. The beauty of the Coens work is how accessible they make something that could be so very niche. Wonderful acting, wonderful music (overseen once again by the legendary T-Bone Burnett), and understated writing and directing. See it now, as there is no chance the Dubai multiplexes will be screening this again.

When to see it: Saturday, 14 Dec 2013, 04:45 PM at Madinat Arena 


12 Years A Slave

See this if:  You can handle it. You want to see what will likely win Best Picture a this years Oscars.

Plot:  It seems it takes a Brit to really get to the emotionally complex heart of racism in America. Director Steve McQueen, fresh from the critical acclaim of 'Bronson', 'Hunger', and 'Shame', returns with his most accessible - but also most violent - film yet. It's the true story of black musician Solomon Northrup, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in pre-Civil War America, and charts his journey to possible freedom over a 12 year period. Along the way he deals with extreme violence and degradation, at the hands of a never-better Michael Fassbender, a tolerant Brad Pitt, and many other A-List actors all vying for glory come Oscar time. Northrup is played by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and his performance anchors the film, generating anger, frustration, and deep empathy from anyone watching. But it is McQueens film, shot beautifully and with raw emotion, it further cements the fact that he is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today.

When to see it: Monday, 9 Dec 2013, 04:45 PM at Madinat Arena  


August: Osage County

See this if: You want to go to the theatre, in the cinema.

Plot: Meryl Streep. Julia Roberts. Juliette Lewis. The incomparable Margo Martindale. Ewan McGregor. Abigail Breslin. Adapted from a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts. Starring 6 Oscar winners and a bunch of nominees. This is a two-ton prestige picture from the Weinsteins, and thankfully it has the script to back up the stunning performances. It won't win the hearts of the high-brow critics but make no mistake, it's a great film. Streep is never-better as the dysfunctional head of a clan of three daughters, whose paths have diverged until they are all forced back to their childhood home for a weekend. It's funny, shouty, and your mum will love it. Simple.

When to see it: Saturday, 7 Dec 2013, 07:00 PM at Madinat Arena  


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