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LA Times Blogs: Dubai – Politics and AIDS at film festival

By Raed Rafei in Beirut

To view original blog, published by the Los Angeles Times on the 16th December, click here

Movies aren’t the only point of attraction at this year’s Dubai Film Festival.

In addition to being a venue for glamorous stars, the festival, which opened last week, has quickly become a platform for politics and controversy.

On Friday, a group of political activists showed up at the screening of a documentary on Palestinian rappers and called on the audience to boycott jewelry by an Israeli diamond mogul, who sells wares in boutiques in Dubai.

The group distributed T-shirts and flyers denouncing the jeweler, Lev Leviev, for allegedly supporting Jewish settlement in the West Bank, according to the local English-language daily, Gulf News.

Leviev reportedly owns a self-titled diamond label that has been selling in a number of high-end shops in Dubai for almost a year.

In another hall of the festival, jewelry and other objects were being auctioned off for a cause, the fight against AIDS. Actress Salma Hayek started the auction by exhibiting a Cartier bracelet bearing her signature, which was sold for $80,000.

Goldie Hawn then auctioned a 1962 rare portrait of Marilyn Monroe signed by photographer Bert Stern for $40,000.

The auction of celebrity memorabilia raised $1.8 million for AmFAR, an American foundation conducting research on AIDS, according to the organizers.

Dubai’s film festival, now in its fifth year, began Thursday with a screening of director Oliver Stone’s movie, “W,” about President George W. Bush.

A total of 181 films from 66 countries will be shown during the event, running until Thursday.