DIFF 2016 — Top 5 Movies Under The Radar

Five not-so-obvious movies to watch at the 13th Dubai International Film Festival

The 13th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival is almost here, and it presents 156 films from 55 countries in 44+ languages. As with the presentations every year, this year too features movies that have been received high praise and universal critical acclaim, even if they may not star well-known faces and won top awards. In the second of our Top-5 articles, we pick movies that may slip under the radar, but in fact should be on the must-watch list for cinephiles attending the festival.

After The Storm  (Umi Yori Mo Mada Fukatu)

Our experience at DIFF with quiet personal dramas from Japan have been highly rewarding, Vacation from DIFF 2008 being a highlight. Therefore, our first recommendation on this list is for this gentle-looking Japanese movie about a private detective dealing with the grief of his father’s recent death and his attempt at reaching out to his estranged family. The trailer sets up the tone for an emotional but pleasant story, so don’t expect a sob-fest or much melodrama here. The movie played at Cannes earlier this year (Un Certain Regard section), and has been universally praised.


Set in 1940s Chile, Neruda stars Gael García Bernal as an inspector tasked to hunt down Nobel Prize-winning poet and communist Pablo Neruda, who becomes a fugitive in his home country. This is also one of two movies playing at DIFF this year from  Director Pablo Larraín, and both of them are on our lists of must-see films. While Jackie is the more popular choice (read about it here), Neruda is equally acclaimed and just as beautiful shot. The lightheartedness and visual humour from the trailer push the anticipation up, since high praise for a funny festival movie is a rare but promising sign.

Voyage Of Time

The Tree of Life had a middle-portion that gave us a glimpse of Terrence Malick’s vision of the creation of the Universe and the genesis of Life. That became a window to this Terrence Malick documentary, which explores existence in a visual way, spanning millions of years right from the creation of the Universe to the present, and far into the future. The movie was shot on IMAX at remote locations around Earth, combined with special effects to visualize the cosmos, presented at the IMAX screen in Mall of the Emirates and is narrated by Cate Blanchett (and if you remember the prologue of The Lord of the Rings, you know how mesmerizing her voice can be). The sensory-pleasure that this movie promises is a one-of-a-kind cinema experience that you would be wise to not miss.

Wolf And Sheep

For a war-torn land, Afghanistan still houses enough beauty and innocence that deserve a telling. Wolf and Sheep is a rare fiction feature from the mountainous country, exploring the innocence (and harsh reality) of rural life while also narrating visualizing some of the fables that populate the traditional story-telling of the shepherds. The movie was screened at Cannes earlier this year where it won at the Directors’ Fortnight.

The Woman Who Left (Ang Babaeng Humayo)

A former teacher released from prison after serving 30 years for a crime she didn’t commit enters ordinary life again. She befriends a series of outsiders while also planning revenge on her ex-lover, the person who framed her. This drama from Philippines has a running time of almost four hours, and is presented in black & white. It stars actress Charo Santos-Concio, who returns to movies after 17 years (during which time she was CEO of a broadcasting corporation). And it won the Golden Lion at Venice this year. Apt recipe for the kind of movies we love watching and recommending at the Dubai International Film Festival!

If you liked our recommendations on this list, please also read our other article for the more popular movies we recommend this festival: “DIFF 2016 — Top 5 Movies On Every List

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.