The Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC), initiated in Dubai last year, is the only one of its kind in the Middle East, uniting people harboring a fervent love for comics. MEFCC 2013 was bigger, and oh, so much better! In the true spirit of Comic Con, originality, excitement, and laughter reigned supreme.
I couldn’t wipe the soppy grin off my face as I walked into the venue. There was so much to see! Numerous events went on simultaneously—autograph and photo sessions with celebrities, workshops, live performances, movie screenings, Q&A panels with artists and celebrities, etc. There were dozens of booths where one could buy new and vintage comics, merchandise, art, games, and meet scores of comic book and manga artists from across the world.
Cosplayers ambled about, completely in character. Cosplay or ‘costume play’ involves dressing up and stepping into the shoes of a fictional character. And what’s a Comic Con without the cosplay? There were superheroes, stormtroopers, villains, zombies, characters from Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy, Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, World of Warcraft and other games, the entire Akatsuki—an evil organization of rogue ninja in the animé Naruto—and several other characters from popular culture in attendance. I spotted Captain Jack Sparrow, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mario and Luigi, Zelda, and even Tom and Jerry! The latter evoked squeals of excitement and affection from attendees of all ages; who hasn’t grown up watching the comic duo? All the cosplayers posed for photographs; I snapped a quick pic of the masked Zero from the animé Code Geass and was delighted when he took his leave with a courteous bow.
Celebrity guests included actors Manu Bennett (Spartacus), Warwick Davis (The Harry Potter series), Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings), Alan Tudyk (Firefly), voice actors Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal, and screenwriter Max Landis (Chronicle).
Max Landis…I’ve never come across a more passionate and fascinating individual. I could watch him talk for hours. Yes, watch! His entire being surges with boundless energy when discussing his scripts and ideas (even otherwise) and his zest and love for writing fired up the writer in me.
Manu Bennett is a Maori (an indigenous people of New Zealand) and was asked about the ‘Haka’ war cry when he was on stage. He enlightened us…with a demo.
Picture this: The stage is overrun with over forty volunteers from the audience—many in cosplay—stomping while repeatedly thundering out “KA MATE! KA MATE! KA ORA! KA ORA!” in cohesion with Manu Bennett, who is now quite red in the face from roaring. I was in splits at the sight of the awesome spectacle. Manu also explained the ‘Hongi’; a traditional Maori greeting wherein two people press their noses together and “take in the breath of life,” (i.e. each other’s breath). He then ‘greeted’ the volunteers thus. Needless to say, the crowd went wild.
The MEFCC also provided local talents with a platform to display their brilliance at the Artists’ Alley. A number of young artists sat sketching or painting away, each demonstrating a breathtakingly unique, developed style.
From the many workshops, I attended ‘Storyboarding and Sequence Direction’ by Dino Athanassiou, an animation expert who’s worked on the animation and graphics for several highly successful films. He played a few sequences he’d directed from animated films—Sinbad: Legend of the High Seas, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and my favorite, The Road to El Dorado. Dino shed light aplenty on how animated films are produced. For instance, to synchronize dialogue with the movements of animated characters, animators read the script while observing their own movements in a mirror, or watch voice actors at recording sessions.
I encountered a truly inspiring person at the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) booth, where they were selling artwork and raising funds for the building of the first Pediatric Cardiac Centre in Gaza. Richard Mitchell is a 56-year old British expat living in the Middle East. He will undertake an incredible journey, travelling 22,000 kilometers across thirty countries on a 22-year old Honda Africa Twin motorcycle to raise awareness and funds for the PCRF’s cause, intending to give back to the region that has enabled him and his family to live a secure and pleasant life.
If there’s anything I’ve taken from the MEFCC, whether from the celebrities, artists, organizers, exhibitors, cosplayers or attendees, it’s this: do what you love, love what you do, and be the best you can be at what you do.