H'wood on the Gulf: A-Listers Invade Arab Desert

It was a party in the desert, and everyone was invited. Well, everyone who's anyone in the movies, at least.

Famous actors like George Clooney and Sharon Stone christened the red carpet, followed by stars of India's Bollywood and innovators of Arab cinema.

Marking the fourth year of an increasingly popular international event, Dubai projected its hopes of becoming a regional hub for filmmakers and producers. The glitz gave way to films on sensitive issues like terrorism and climate change, tackled in a region where governments routinely ban films with controversial content.

"Places like Dubai and Egypt, which are moderate Arab societies, seem like the best places to try to find common ground and get Muslims to talk about Muslim issues, as opposed to just the rest of us talking about them," Clooney told one reporter. It was Clooney's second time in Dubai. His first was for shooting portions of Syriana, the 2005 geopolitical thriller.

"It gives us the opportunity to cross cultures," Clooney said of the just-concluded Dubai International Film Festival. "Music and film have always been a great way of doing that."

Stone used her time in Dubai to preside over an AIDS fundraiser for AmFar, raising $1 million. Actresses Rachel Bilson and Gloria Estefan, plus actors Hayden Chistensen and Danny Glover, also attended the festival.

Leonardo Dicaprio was the narrator and co-producer on the "The 11th Hour," which he also presented at the festival. The environmental documentary follows in the steps of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," a film about global warming.

Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding," "The Namesake") presented "AIDS Jaago," four beautifully told stories of the impact of AIDS in India. The festival's top prize went to "Under the Bombs," a Lebanese film about love during sectarian conflict.

A lighter but equally substantive offering was a series of short films called "Emirati Voices," one of which dealt with youth culture in the United Arab Emirates, specifically, teenage and 20-something Arab men starting to dress and groom like women. Two students at Dubai Women's College, Shamma Abu Nawas and Sahar al Khatib, captured young people's reactions to those men who choose to wax, die their hair and abandon the traditional white Arab robe and headdress in favor of jeans with colorful polos.

"Guys look like Barbie dolls the way they dress these days ... all they need is miniskirts," said one girl to the camera.

"They are not men. They have no shame," said another.

Al Khatib and Abu Nawas told ABC News they were inspired to make the film after seeing their friends start to dress subversively, an act of self-expression but also of defiance of traditional norms.

The festival ended with the Middle East premiere of "The Kite Runner," a movie set against the conflict in Afghanistan. The four male actors who starred in the film attended the screening. They now live in Dubai, moving there after the film's controversial rape scene offended some Afghans and led the actors and their families to fear for their safety.

The closing party was set beside sand dunes, with Hollywood types blending with Arabs in traditional white robes or black abayas. A festival with the tag line "Bridging Cultures, Meeting Minds" did ultimately get everyone under the same tent.

With reporting by Mohamed Kadry.

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