Tales from ADFF: Creative Lab’s Rise is its Most Ambitious Project Yet

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Our community member, Omar Adam, reviews Ali Mustafa's Rise

Rise boasts an extremely impressive litany of talent: it stars Iraqi/Canadian rap star The Narcicyst, who also came up with the concept and co-wrote the script, and is directed by top UAE director Ali F. Mostafa, whose other new film, From A to B, opened ADFF to an overwhelmingly positive response.  
It is also an anomaly among short films; featuring extensive CGI, expensive sports cars, and many of the most expensive locations in the UAE, the “music film” (as it was dubbed by its director) flies in the face of the conservative nature of most short film productions. Indeed, Rise is, for a geographically-apt metaphor, the Burj Khalifa of shorts, Arab or otherwise. This works both in its favour and against it; Rise looks so good in its opening minutes that the viewer’s expectations are instantly raised, and the pressure then becomes on the story to match the visual prowess. Luckily, The Narcicyst and Mostafa weave an interesting narrative, with the momentum continually building along the 15 minute runtime. There’s never a dull moment in Rise; even when the film takes a rare moment to breathe, you’re way too busy taking in everything that the film just threw at you to be able to process boredom. 
The story, or what little of it I want to divulge here (because everyone should go see the film), is much more abstract than many of the other short films in the festival this year. Set in the near (but undefined) future, The Narcicyst stars as a man who, at first glance, seems to have it all: a luxury apartment in Burj Khalifa, an expensive car, an important job at a big company. But there’s the imminent threat of doom in the air throughout Rise. This impending chaos is foreshadowed with news reports and gloomy views, but it is only when The Narcicyst begins to have visions that things really begin to unravel. 
The film has things to say about the nature of perceived wealth and status, about the inevitability of fate, and about the disconnect between business and living, and these abstract explorations might turn off certain viewers even as the visuals continue to wow them. The Narcicyst and Mostafa clearly had something to say when making the film, and the passion that both of them brought to the project is clearly on display; Mostafa with his manic directing, Narcicyst with a solid and believable lead performance.
Even if you feel like Rise isn’t your cup of tea, either after watching or just reading about it, the film should be examined for its importance to not only Creative Lab but the industry as a whole; the film represents a significant leap in ambition, a prominent example that Abu Dhabi and its industry can and will create big, sleek looking films regardless of length. If, in a few years, all of the output from the UAE looks and feels as good as Rise does, the film will still stand tall as the pioneer of a shift towards higher level filmmaking. Now who’d want to pass up the chance to see that?