Abu Dhabi, Oct 25: Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker charmed the audience at the star-studded opening gala of the seventh edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival here with his humility as he accepted the Black Pearl Career Achievement award at a ceremony. Hollywood film "Life of Crime" gave an entertaining kick-off to the extravaganza.
"It is humbling to be in this city," Whitaker said as he received the award here Thursday with a smile on his face.
"A black pearl is a result of a lot of hard work, and I am thankful that you think of me like that," he added. Whitaker, best known for his performances in movies like "The Last King of Scotland" and "Bird", gave the local glitterati a treat as he sang few lines in Arabic.
For the opening ceremony, the red carpet rolled out for what turned out to be an immaculate turn out of celebrities - actors, filmmakers, technicians and officials, all dressed in their finery.
In attendance was also Australian actress Jacki Weaver, who is here to preside over the narrative competition jury. There was also Palestinian actress and director Hiam Abbass, who is a part of the jury too, and will receive the Black Pearl Achievement award later during the fest.
Ali Al Jabri, who is serving his second year as the festival director, said it makes him proud to see how the festival structure and attendance have expanded, setting an example for other film festivals in the Gulf region. As many as 166 films - 94 features and 72 shorts - from 51 countries are due to be screened during the festival, which will conclude Nov 2.
The opening ceremony, held at the majestic Emirates Palace here, was attended by a bevy of Arab stars too. The auditorium was packed for the screening of Daniel Schechter's "Life of Crime", which stars Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Mark Boone Junior.
A crime comedy, the movie served its purpose of engaging and entertaining to the hilt as several audience members were laughing heartily in the midst of the screening. The show ended with a well-deserved applause.
Mark Boone Junior was here with Schechter and the film's producer Ashok Amritraj for the film's screening.
Now, festival patrons and film aficionados are looking forward to movies, master classes and more.