A screen icon makes his last movie with a Dubai direc­tor


Last year, UAE sen­sors cut 45 min­utes from Martin Scors­ese’s epic, three-hour tale of high nance and bad be­hav­iour, The Wolf Of Wall

Street. The cuts drew world­wide at­ten­tion and re-ig­nited one of the old­est de­bates in the GCC: cul­tural sen­si­tiv­i­ties or artis­tic ex­pres­sion?

But go back two or three decades, and it was easy to see a lm in Dubai the way a direc­tor in­tended – and one man who saw as many as he could is 34-year-old Elia Petridis, a Greek-Le­banese Hol­ly­wood direc­tor who spent his rst 18 years in the emi­rate.

“Piracy was ev­ery­where [dur­ing the 1980s] and one thing Dubai did very early was put the ki­bosh on it,” says Petridis, who is in town to pro­mote his Hol­ly­wood movie, The Man Who Shook The Hand Of Vi­cente Fer­nan­dez. “They opened the­atres and said piracy is il­le­gal. Be­fore that

we would get videos from two shops in Dubai – VideoS­cope and Video 2000. I’d leave with a bag of at least 15 movies at a time. I’d watch French lms such as The 400 Blows, and

Grem­lins and The Goonies.” Grow­ing up in Jumeirah in the 1980s, self-con­fessed movie nerd Petridis was mak­ing lms aged 13 at Amer­i­can School Of Dubai. At 16 he joined the New York Film Academy be­fore mov­ing on to the USC School Of Cin­e­matic Arts in LA at 18. But be­fore he moved over­seas, he used to sup­ple­ment those video ses­sions with trips to the cinema in Dubai.

“I’d go to Al Nasr cinema. It was a big room, with big seats and a bal­cony. Now it would feel like an op­u­lent art house cinema. Can you imag­ine bal­cony seat­ing? I miss that stuff,” he smiles. “Every­body went, be­cause for a while it was only one of two places you could watch movies: there and the Hy­att Re­gency were the only games in town. I saw Ti­tanic there.” The ’90s saw more cine­mas and more Hol­ly­wood lms on Dubai screens. “1997 to 1998 was a big year for lm in gen­eral, it was a re­nais­sance,” says Petridis. “I saw here. It wasn’t cut. Seven The Usual Sus­pects, Glad­i­a­tor, all un­cut.”

The ques­tion of mod­ern­day cen­sor­ship raises its head and while Petridis is quick to point out that he un­der­stands and ac­cepts the cul­tural rea­sons for slic­ing and dic­ing, it’s a frus­tra­tion from a direc­tor’s per­spec­tive. “I saw Dumb And

Dumber To here, and they cut it. That makes me sad. It’s a talk­ing point and a cul­tural thing. I was here be­fore they did that. If you’re go­ing to do that to the The Wolf Of Wall Street, you’re de­feat­ing the pur­pose of the lm.”

Petridis’ di­rec­to­rial de­but is un­likely to trou­ble the cen­sors.

The Man Who Shook The Hand

Of Vi­cente Fer­nan­dez stars West­ern great Ernest Borg­nine, who made the lm when he was 96 years old. It’s the tale of a man in an old peo­ple’s home staffed by Latino staff, who treat him dif­fer­ently when they nd out he once shook the hand of Fer­nan­dez, a man dubbed the Mex­i­can Frank Sinatra. It’s a tale of re­gret: Borg­nine’s char­ac­ter Max Page watches an old West­ern ev­ery day he once be­lieves he had a chance to star in. It was Borg­nine’s last lm be­fore his death in 2012.

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