Hollywood stars latest weapon in Gulf Arab cinema wars

Wed Nov 3, 2010 11:57am EDT
 
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By Andrew Hammond

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - In a stunning gold and black dress and the highest heels you've probably ever seen, Hollywood 'A' lister Salma Hayek struts across the red carpet.

"I really like it, and I take it very seriously," she tells reporters straining over the barrier for a comment about her role as a judge at this film festival. "It looks like they have built a great home for arts, culture and film."

Who would believe she was talking about Qatar, a desert country of 1.7 million people, mostly expatriates, long seen as a cultural backwater even compared to its Gulf Arab neighbors.

Blessed with vast oil and gas reserves and tiny populations, Gulf Arab cities with cash to spare have been competing in recent years to establish themselves as cultural capitals.

Doha has a prestigious Islamic art museum and Abu Dhabi is building offshoots of New York's Guggenheim and Paris' Louvre.

But it is film festivals that have emerged as the prestige cultural event of choice since Dubai launched its version in 2004 -- poster child for its drive to become a glamorous destination for the international jetset.

A week before Hayek strutted her stuff at the second Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Uma Thurman graced the red carpet at the fourth Abu Dhabi Film Festival in the United Arab Emirates.

"For the first time I felt energy coming from a festival in this region," she told reporters in the UAE capital.   Continued...

 
<p>Salma Hayek attends the opening night gala during the 2010 Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Doha October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous</p>