this young man tonight, Ali Mostafa. If you haven't heard of him, he's an up and coming film maker with a difference: he's Emirati. His first film, City of Life, had great reviews when it debuted at the Dubai International Film Festival last year, and despite not receiving global distribution, still caused a huge stir in the region.
The film chronicles some Dubai stereotypes: the taxi driver, the air hostess, the Emirati, and how their lives are woven together through a series of events. I really enjoyed it: it's not often that I get to see my favourite city and hometown featured in a movie that doesn't involve terrorists. The city looks stunning, and the film also dealt with some pretty gritty topics, so the film definitely scratches beneath the surface of the usual glam side that Dubai shows.
The evening was different as Ali was in conversation with a childhood friend, and their easy banter threw up some great conversations. Some of the most interesting stories about the film involve the making of it: Ali outlined the challenges he faced - for example the script was amended 27 times, and even after going through multiple approvals, the film was very nearly never shown after it was vetoed by the censors.
In a final effort to get the film approved, Ali went straight to the top, HRH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Radhin Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. He got one one of the film's stars to hand deliver a copy to him, with the message: "The future of the Emirati film industry rests on your decision as to whether or not this gets approved."
You'd think that this would have been nerve-wracking, but I loved Ali's comment: "I knew that a man with the vision to create a city like Dubai would have the vision to support and accept my film." And approve it, he of course, did.
Another favourite quote of the evening was when the interviewer asked him: "What do you say to people who say that Dubai is plastic, with no soul?"
Ali's response? "Well firstly it's very hurtful to hear that because that's not the city that I know. The city where I was raised. But if they say that, then I say that's their problem. They should get out and go and see the real city. The city that I love."
The spontaneous applause that rang out after this statement really warmed my heart. Well said Ali, well said.