City of Life (2009) Poster


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The best film made about life in Dubai
bozo2bozo225 April 2010
This is a "Crash"-style story of lives in Dubai, set, apparently, just before the financial crash. Although it resembles, somewhat, "Crash," it manages to pull away from the most obvious clichés as it unfolds three or four representative stories from some of the major populations who live and work in the city. The low rating (currently 4.5) is entirely unjustified; it's a solid, competent work with only a few off notes, and in many ways it represents the arrival of first-class film-making to the Emirates. Each of the three major plots - Emirati, European-expat, and Indian-expat - have a strong narrative arc, and each come to a satisfying, if not always happy, end. In all, it's a fascinating view into worlds rarely, if ever, depicted on the world screen.
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Promising debut from a talented Emirati director
Tristan Marchetti5 May 2010
I've convinced my movie-addict French neighbor to come discovering the first Emirati movie with me last night and we've both been thrilled by this experience! We've both been living in Dubai for a few years and everything in this movie was talking to us: the character, the story, the atmosphere and the sets of course. Debuting director Ali F. Mostafa has done an excellent work in depicting these different lives and their destiny in this cosmopolitan city, capturing smartly the essence of the Dubai "cultural melting pot" without falling in the stereotype. Acting was good in general for the whole cast (special mention to Yassin Alsalman aka Khalfan and Sonu Sood aka Basu), the photography was capturing Dubai atmosphere with just the right tone and the cool soundtrack was giving a arty note to the movie, reminding me a bit of what is being done in the US independent production the last years (Anderson or Reitman). City of Life is not free of defects though: the fighting scenes look a bit like cartoon (watch the local martial art in dish dash!), the social class rivalry between Emiratis would have benefited from further development and some elapse effect in the narration dilute the emotional impact of certain scenes (the scene with Natalia at the hospital), but these minor reproaches do not erode the pleasure you will feel watching City of Life and remember this is only the first movie of Ali F. Mostafa! Now would this movie talk to somebody not living in Dubai? I would say definitely yes as City of Life stands alone as a good piece of cinematography with a captivating story. I hope this movie will get the chance to have an international career and I wish foreign audience will witness the birth of a new talented Emirati director as we did yesterday. Spread the word!!!
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Remarkable film-making!!
charley2615 April 2011
Everything from the first shot made me think this would be a movie of substance and it did live up-to my expectations. Being born and lived all my life in Dubai would be I would know a thing or two about the city and every All the characters did a remarkable job filling their characters with naturality, special mention to three of the holding characters,protagonists of the film namely Yassin(Khalfan), Saoud(Faisal) and Sonu(Basu). I think its absolutely great to have films made like this which bring out the essence and feel of a metropolitan city like Dubai. The fact that the city and its lights have been depicted in the tone that it is shows the director knew the shade of how it had to be, had a vision of the final product. Nice slick piece of cinematography all through.

Kudos to Ali n the nice work he has given us! Great stirring film!
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Ali B23 October 2010
Arab film fest DC. To my surprise there's an Emirati movie with a not so bad blurb. Decide to go check it out, hoping it's not clichéd or derivative.

In short, movie was really really good. I was pretty much glued to the screen. Script was very smart and intertwined 3 story lines, and while it felt slightly forced in some parts it wasn't distracting. Cinematography was great, humor was intact and soundtrack for the most part was on key.

As a Kuwaiti that grew up in the US, then lived in the UAE and Kuwait, only to come back to the US I feel very drawn to this movie. I actually feel this movie was made for my generation of English-as-a-first-language Arabs. Was very impressed, and glad that I went. While I wouldn't say this movie redefines cinema, it definitely shines as a stand alone title with enough originality to inspire future attempts from the Gulf.

Highly recommended.
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Dubai a place for dreamers
bhatian8 May 2010
Prior to viewing this film in the cinema in Dubai, I had already heard some good reviews of the film having a potential to enter mainstream cinema. Therefore last night I decided on viewing this film without expecting much.

The storytelling is basically similar to the likes of Babel and Crash, and the film style is "done that, did that". In spite of all the similarities I was impressed by production quality and cinematography. Film touches on lives of three people living in Dubai, and their experiences based on their dreams. Dubai has always been a city of dream rather than a city of life, where people come to fulfill their dream on making more money, buying a bigger better car and home, or simply living a lavish life. This has been well portrayed in the film.

The acting quality is excellent and the costumes, make-ups, and production designs are all well picked. But somehow watching this film in a cinema felt a bit awkward as it had a television production feel rather than cinema house quality. My overall experience just like everyone else was good.

I recommend you watch this film if you have never lived in Dubai, as it does speak out well about Dubai's lifestyle and the dreams people carry here. Dubai is simply a place for dreamers and its best lived short and sweet.

My score: 6 out of 10

Neeil Bhatia
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'City of life' is a drama set in the urban environment that is Dubai. How people from different cultural backgrounds are trying to find themselves...
Faisal Khatib1 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Directed, written and produced by Ali F. Mostafa, a UAE based film maker, being the first Emirati full length feature, I was looking forward to seeing how Dubai had been depicted

It revolves around the life of an Emirati called Faisal (played by Saoud Al Kaabi) who's unsure about his identity in society, an Indian taxi driver called Basu (played by Sonu Sood) dreaming to become a big Indian actor, a flight attendant called Natalia Moldovan (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) looking for companionship and an old Filipino cardboard collector (played by Itlanas Jr) and how their lives converge in the end for better or worse.

'City of life' is a drama set in the urban environment that is Dubai. How people from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds are trying to find themselves, figure things out and live. It also shows how certain actions and their reactions leads to a domino effect in their lives where some find hope and some find a reason to live.

Saoud Al Kaabi played his role well though he was completely over shadowed by Yassin Alsalman who plays his aggressive emotional friend to perfection. Sonu Sood as the taxi driver dreaming big was good in patches as I thought at some points in the film he could have showed more emotions to get the viewers really involved in his plight. Alexandra Maria Lara and Jason Flemyng (playing the playboy Guy Berger) were not very convincing while Natalie Dormer (playing Natalia's roommate Olga) was quite good in comparison. Ahmed Ahmed (playing restaurant owner Nasser) and Javed Jaffery (playing Suresh Khan) didn't have big enough roles to make any impact on the viewer while Habib Ghuloom (playing Faisal's father) was quite poor in his single style of dialog delivery but I suppose his role didn't have anything else to offer either.

For a person who's directing his first full length feature, Ali F. Mostafa did a fantastic job. I love the opening bicycle scene and the way he incorporated shots from old Dubai i.e. Satwa with the modern Dubai i.e. SZR road. I also like the way he included the various point of views and lifestyles i.e. covering the local, western and Asian. The story was well written though a little cliché but then that is Dubai in a lot of ways. The camera work in some places was a bit shaky but maybe that's how they wanted it to be.

What I didn't like about the movie was that it seemed to be just another thing out of the UAE that was trying to promote 'Brand Dubai'. I know most movies do that when it comes to the locations they use and I'm being a little too critical about it but I just felt it could have been avoided in some areas.

It was a nice night out. A movie I recommend to any person who's lived in the UAE or the gulf even if you might not be able to relate to any of the characters cause just watching Dubai on the big screen and trying to figure out the various locations is fun in its own way plus you get a good story to enjoy on the side...
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Must watch if you know Dubai or if you don't!
jenny-65127 April 2010
I went to see the movie last night and I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie depicts well the real Dubai. The characters painted feel so real that sometimes during the movie I was reminded of people that I have crossed during my time in Dubai. For people who don't know Dubai, a character or two might seem 'cliches' like the British playboy or the Russian pretty girl who is only interested in men with money... but those that live in Dubai know that these people do actually exist here, probably more than anywhere else.

The writers managed to make all the characters seem true and move the viewer. City of Life portrays a diverse and vibrant city and a message of compassion seem to emanate of it. On top of that it gives an opportunity to see the lives of groups of people that you don't see in reality like Emiratis and gives us a chance to understand each other better.

I really invite you to go watch it.
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Very well written and directed movie.
sofiahusain9329 March 2011
An excellent movie overall. There was a fluent use of English, Arabic and Urdu in this movie because in Dubai all three languages are used fluently. This movie shows the sharp contract in people and their attitude.

I really felt for the Indian Manager who had worked for 15 years only to be put under a young boy just because he was boss's son.

This movie did not touch more sensitive items like slave servants or sex slaves but it plays in such a way that you could feel the helplessness in the air.

The message in between the lies was that this life in the fast lane means that there is nothing what it seems.
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Just about more than a special interest film
ianmat28 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Feature-length films from competent Arab directors are rare. This one is both rare and good. My wife worked hard to persuade me to see the film after having seen it herself the day before. It is at first off-putting watching a film financed by product placement - largely due to my fellow similar goers cackling "ooh, that's Cat Boy and Geordie Bird" and a rather staged scene in a ballet school, but the film quickly reaches its stride.

This film leaves every local watcher of all nationalities nodding and saying 'so true'. Like the film, Dubai isn't perfect by any means, but that doesn't mean both aren't great.

It is a film about dreamers and their dreams, but set in almost real life. The Bollywood wannabe taxi driver Basu (perhaps the best portrayal in the film), the frustratingly wooden Natalia, playboy and eventual arch-villain Guy Berger: all have different dreams. For me, though, the Emirati characters steal the show. Summing up the brash yet uncertain confidence of this country and showing the true heart of the Emirati population. The final scenes involving Faisal, Khalfan and their families bring a tear to my eye every time. Just don't tell the wife.
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Good message - listen people
usher_67919 October 2011
I am not used to write on this wall but this time i had to say something.

I see people complaining about things that do not have anything to do with the movie. This movie is a portrait of the "melting pot" in UAE and their different lifestyles. This is a real eye opener. For us to see their culture. I have been there and i did not have the chance to see so many things, which actually makes me sad. But this movie was great in my opinion. I think that it also had a whole new way of shooting movies on.

We also see how the poor man.....see it yourself.
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Bold and almost controversial, but the dawn of an era in UAE as a cinema producing market.
Lloyd Bayer27 July 2011
Premiering on December 11th 2009 at the Dubai International Film Festival, this is the first feature film by Emarati director Ali f Mostafa. Besides co-producing the film, Mostafa also wrote the original script which paints an almost true to life portrait of life in Dubai. The screenplay shuffles between a struggling Indian taxi driver (Basu) and his ambitions of setting foot into the Bollywood film industry, a former Romanian ballet dancer working as a flight attendant (Natalia) for a prominent Dubai based airline and a wealthy young Emarati (Faisal) caught between preserving his cultural identity and maintaining his family's reputation. Unknown to each other, the lives of these three individuals are destined to collide, resulting in shattered dreams, a knock of opportunity and a tragic awakening.

I first saw this film on a flight bound for Dubai. Although my movie experience was hampered by a palm sized screen, the constant boom of the engines outside and the unpredictable flicker of the overhead seatbelt signs, I was engrossed by the drama unfolding on my seven inch screen. Not because of its well penned story, but because of the very nature of the story- A plausible day in the life of an expatriate or UAE national or almost any Tom, Dick and Harriet living in Dubai. For this, Mostafa builds his story around the lives of individuals whose cultural identities and way of life form the very cogs that drive this country- the ambitious Indian expat, the highly social European expat, and the privileged UAE national. As a whole, the film is not ground breaking in terms of production value, but it is soul stirring, especially if like me, you have been raised in this country. Recognizable are some of the locations used for filming, starting with Basu's room in Al Karama, Natalia and her Russian colleague in Jumairah, Faisal's best friend, khalfan's residence in the shanty parts of old Satwa and various other locations that are identifiable, including Dubai International Airport and the Emirates Training College. Although visible in some scenes and on the movie poster, the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was not given proper screen time as the tower was not entirely complete at the time of this film's release.

Made from a shoe string budget and lacking expertise from big named studios, an independent production like this always faces the risk of a hit or miss. For the sake of all things that are real and beautiful in Dubai, I am compelled to say that this is a well made film and an instant hit with the multi-cultural residents of Dubai and the surrounding Emirates. Mostafa's storytelling has an inner meaning, complete with a few moral messages. One of these is the strong suggestion that Dubai is not skin deep, or a fake place or a bubble about to burst, but a very real place where growth and opportunities await those determined enough to rise to the challenge. On the flip side, there also awaits a fair share of tragedies for those who are misguided victims of temptation or over indulgence. This is where Mostafa excels in portraying the real Dubai as opposed to outside perception. For the most part, he gets it right. There are, however, certain points in the plot that are too coincidental. Additionally, there is the overbearing cliché where Dubai is projected as a 'cultural melting plot' a suggestive phrase used in countless travel brochures and advertisements meant for importing tourism.

Onto the production front and we have a mostly decent attempt at contemporary cinema. Cinematography is a factor that definitely appears to have been given considerable thought. Close-ups are plenty in low light, without much depth of field (blurry background). Most major landmarks out of Dubai's cityscapes appear to be in some frame or the other. Special effects are almost non-existent except for a particular scene towards the end which does bear the trademarks of mainstream cinema. However, action scenes with fight sequences seem below average or worse than some made-for-TV productions. In the confines of a character driven film, acting is not exactly Oscar material, but decent enough as Mostafa's directional debut. Bollywood actor Sonu Sood fits into the role of the Indian taxi driver with ease. Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara could have been better in her role as Natalia especially after her claim to fame with the Academy Award nominated film, "Downfall". Playing Emarati youths are Saoud Al Kaabi as Faisal and Yassin Alsalman (AKA the Narcisyst) as Khalfan in standout roles, and are very convincing as carefree young Emaratis living off family wealth. Canadian musician of Iraqi origin but born and raised in the UAE, The Narcisyst has one of the best roles in the film as Faisal's trusted friends. Last but not he least is some great stuff from Jason Flemyng as Natalia's love interest. Of course, no introduction is needed for a veteran actor such as Flemyng having recently appeared in the 2011 release of "X-Men: First Class".

In its sum, "City of Life" is a memorable film being that it is the first of its kind in the UAE. Its story and message is bold yet controversial. As a story, it pits together ambition, privilege, opportunity, tragedy and shame, some of which are experienced by all Dubai residents at some point or the other. The credit for depicting these trials and triumphs on screen with affluent storytelling belongs to Ali F Mostafa. By the look and feel of this film, I am sure he is the next best thing in Cinema, this side of the globe. As a young Emarati director, Mostafa has set the standard for things to come.
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Worth watching once! - Review may contain spoilers, not sure.
nightshadow713 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The movie is about intersecting lives in this city, much like Crash or Amores Perros, in the end it all comes together somehow.

I live in Dubai and quite enjoy it here... it is a place unlike no other on Earth. Funny thing is, there are certain "givens" or accepted truths and stereotypes about Dubai that this movie points out quite well. My favorite was the money-hungry Russian girl, sleeping around with anyone just to live a comfortable lifestyle, before coming to Dubai I truly believed this was an exaggeration from people but I've yet to meet one Russian girl that isn't this way and it makes the movie that much more accurate.

There are three main stories told: Indian taxi driver who wants a better life but just can't seem to get to that next step. (most taxi drivers in Dubai are either Indian or Pakistani) Eastern-European flight attendant - Pretty much most non-Russian girls I've met in Dubai are flight attendants for Emirates Airlines, so its no surprise this character is one as well. Again quite accurate portrayal of life in Dubai. Her best friend is an easy Russian chick looking to meet rich Arabs to continue her posh lifestyle.

Two young Emiratis (Arab) who come from money and live their wealthy lifestyle of partying and spending their parents cash.

You can imagine all very different lifestyles but this is the beauty of Dubai, it really does contain these characters. Heck, I felt like I was watching people I knew on screen. The movie is quite predictable in many ways but definitely still worth a watch, especially if you live or have been to Dubai.
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city of life!
Warning: Spoilers
After being a long term resident in dubai i feel that the movie touched on some key aspects. although city of life did resemble movies such as crash i feel this was a huge change from the rest. Where it was similar was that it followed multiple main characters and their stories converged in more than one case. but the difference was that the movie at hand touched on a world that has not been portrayed properly to the outside world. Many people have heard the stories of dubai about the money and the cars and the houses, but this movie not only displayed that but also showed how the culture affects all of this. In the case of the story line of the local emirati, I personally felt that it showed an aspect of the young emirati's that is not shown normally to the rest of the world. Although there is some cultural taboo's shown in the movie, the core values of the culture are still represented. such as loyalty and respect for one's family. in today's media the 'arab' world is extremely mis-represented and i feel that this movie shed an extremely positive light on it. I also feel that the movie represented the split of classes in the UAE very well. There is a clear split in the classes of people in the UAE. although it is not always bad, it is present in day-to-day life. The Split between and Arab male, a European expat Woman and an Indian Expat male was portrayed very well in the film. I don't want to make this review sound like a puff piece that just compliments the film so i will name some negatives to balance it. The movie didn't focus heavily on some aspects of UAE life. The fact that all the stories ended happy made me feel like the film was a little bit Hollywood-ized. although it was a fantastic ending to the film and an end to an extreme emotional roller coaster, i feel that the movie maybe should have also had one story that didn't end happily. This would have shown viewers that even in this city of life, there are people who don't get their happy ending. That being said, in hind sight i would not have wished the director to chance the ending of the film as personally i did love the film in its entirety!
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