Dubai's filmfest sparkled by world stars

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Dubai, Dec 11 (UNI) The red carpet looked plush after having been vacuumed again and again in anticipation of the hallowed heels from Hollywood, Bollywood and the Arab world that descended on multicultural Dubai for the start of a film festival that acted as a bridge between the East and the West.

While TV presenters touched up their make-up, media members jostled for the best vantage point.

Author Paulo Coelho was the first star to arrive at Madinat Arena on Sunday night followed by the Bollywood actors Kabir Bedi and Pooja Batra and director Akbar Khan of 'Taj Mahal-- The Eternal Love Story'.

Then came singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio, to support his film and her album, both called ''90 Millas'', in the festival's first Rhythm and Reels show on Thursday.

After numerous false starts and practice runs, star George Clooney of the opening night's film ''Michael Clayton'', to the great delight of hordes of eager fans.

Looking dapper in a black tuxedo with patent black shoes, the 46-year-old Clooney did not disappoint. Sharing the red carpet with actress Sharon Stone, Clooney was not offended that she was introduced as a ''super, super, super star'' and jovially said, ''She is the bigger star.'' Talking to the reporters, multi Grammy award-winning artiste Estefan said it was her first concert in West Asia. The movie directed by her husband was a documentary on the evolution of Cuban music from its beginnings until now. Twenty-five of the world's most acclaimed Latin musicians were in the film, including legend in the field of Cuban music Johnny Pacheco, Gulf news quoted her as saying.

When asked about what Gloria thought about the new Latin singers, such as Enrique Eglesias and Shakira, she said, ''Music has to be honest and from the heart, so to me it doesn't matter who is making music as long as Latin is there and they are getting our sound out.'' This year' film festival includes 141 films from 52 countries and is aimed to bring international films and production houses to a Gulf Arab region often derided as a cultural desert.

Over 300 films were submitted for the 2007 competition.

''This year we have a diversity of topics, in addition to the social issues and current political situation of the Arab world,'' said Competition Associate Director Mohammed Rouda.

''Arab cinema is no longer stopping at presenting issues, but trying to draw attention to artistic and stylistic techniques.'' UNI

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