The 10th Muscat International Film Festival (MIFF), got off to a colourful start on 26 March, featuring celebrities from across the world, including Bollywood—a global mix that underlined the event’s larger theme, “cinema unites us”.

The festival is showcasing a number of films, including shorts and documentaries, and is organised by the Oman Film Society in association with Oman’s Tourism Ministry and Oman Airports. Noted Bollywood start Manisha Koirala is also expected to take part in the event. Advisor to the Sultan Qaboos for Cultural Affairs, Abdulaziz Mohammed Al Rawas, was the chief guest at the inaugural function, held at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA), and attended by a large number of film artistes (who arrived in vintage cars), experts and cinema lovers of the city, amid colourful cultural programmes.

The event was flagged off with a saxophone recital by Lavanya from Mumbai, and saw performances by renowned whistling artist from Netherlands, Geert Chatrou; Danish-Palestinian percussionist Simona Abdallah; Russian jaw harpist Olena Uutai; and the young Omani singer Haitham Mohammed Rafi.

As many as 115 movies from across the world are being screened during the week-long event. There are also workshops, panel discussions on issues like gender, children’s welfare etc. Other celebrities who made it to the event included Dariush Mehruji, Khalid Abdulraheem, Hatim Al Tai, and Mehboob Moosa among others.

Percussionist Simona Abdallah.

Franco Nero, the acclaimed Italian actor, was a major attraction at the function, whose film Forever Blues was screened here. The film is about Marco, a young jazz trumpet player, who pays a visit to an old friend and tells his story in a flashback. When he was the young kid of an alcoholic and brutal father, his life was saved by Luca, an old jazz musician, who gave him his love for music. The film tells the story of the relationship between Luca, who is getting on in his years and bitter about life, and a 12-year-old boy, who is at the threshold of his life.

Noted Indian filmmaker Mira Nair also attended the festival to screen her award-winning film Queen of Katwe. The film is based on the real-story of a girl from Uganda, Phiona, who struggles with acute poverty and racism but develops a passion for chess. The film was released in 2016 and received worldwide acclaim.

Another film which drew major attraction was Pihu, directed by the journalist-turned-filmmaker Vinod Kapri. Pihu is a social thriller about one character with a two-year-old girl alone in an apartment.

During a panel discussion entitled “Wow Women”, a Ugandan woman, attending the film festival, told Nair how she and her daughters were moved to tears after watching her film. Terming the art of cinema as a “gorgeous disease”, Nair, who has been in the film industry for the last 30 years, said that there is a need to tell stories of those who have not been understood so far. “If we do not tell the story, nobody else will tell the story,” she said. She also said, in response to another query, that she has no patience for the censor board.

Besides Nair, the other participants at the panel discussion were Yusra Mouzughi, vice chancellor of Muscat University; and the Indian filmmaker Amita Vyas, who spoke about the role of women in the film industry.

On this occasion, Mouzughi said she was open to starting a course in filmmaking in her university. A documentary film called Girl Rising, made by Vyas, was also screened at the occasion. The film follows the life stories of nine girls from the developing world, who struggle every day for freedom, education and a voice, in their home countries of Cambodia, Haiti, Ethiopia, Peru, India, Egypt, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

According to Mohammed al Kindi, president of the MIFF, the festival was founded in 2001, and ever since the Omani film industry has grown substantially “Omanis are taking an interest in making films, including shorts and documentaries. Besides, a large number of production houses from India, the US and Europe are taking an interest in shooting in Oman,” he said.

Kindi said cinema unites people. “With this festival, we aim to bring together filmmakers from Oman as well as from across the world, so that they share knowledge on how to make good movies,” he said. The organisers expect the festival will help boost the nascent film industry of Oman and attract filmmakers from all over the world to come to Oman and shoot their films here.

Held every two years, the Muscat International Film Festival has seen the participation of global film personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Forest Whitaker and Susan Sarandon in the past.

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