DIFF film workshops aim to nurture local talent

Organisers of the fifth Dubai International Film Festival say this year's event will have a stronger focus on fostering and promoting the work of Arab filmmakers through a series of workshops, awards and screenings.
DIFF film workshops aim to nurture local talent
By Patrick Elligett
Wed 10 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

Organisers of the fifth Dubai International Film Festival say this year's event will have a stronger focus on fostering and promoting the work of Arab filmmakers through a series of workshops, awards and screenings.

Taking the theme of cultural sensitivity, the festival will also aim to serve as a networking tool for international film professionals, with many industry leaders in attendance.

"This year, we have integrated new elements to further our goal of promoting Arab cinema," commented Shivani Pandya, DIFF managing director. "On the business side, we have introduced a major new initiative: The Dubai Film Market, which will showcase over 200 titles. This furthers our commitment to raising the visibility of world cinema with an emphasis on Arab, Asian and African Cinema," added Pandya.

Further to showcasing and highlighting the work of local filmmakers, a number of workshops will be run by festival organisers to help develop local talent. A five-day producers' workshop, a comedy writing workshop and a master class on Action Direction are part of the highlights. For younger aspiring filmmakers, there will be a three-day children's animation workshop.

Abdulhamid Juma, chairman of DIFF, stated that the event has grown considerably in its fifth year, and will screen 181 films from 66 countries including 16 world premieres. He expressed his delight at the increasing number of submissions from Arab filmmakers.

"We have received over 450 submissions this year, which is 33% more than in our first year. Of these submissions, Tunisia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Morocco have been well represented. Promoting Arab Cinema is one of our most important mandates. This is the third year of the Muhr Awards to acknowledge excellence in Arab Cinema," he added.

Masoud Amralla Al Ali, director general of the competition and DIFF artistic director, added that he hoped to see more Emirati filmmakers feature in the awards' shortlists this year. "Through the years, we have seen a lot of films from Emiratis in the shorts category, but we hope to see more development in feature-length movies as well. DIFF is helping Emirati films gain recognition by ensuring they are well represented."

He also said this year's introduction of the Asia/Africa category has further increased the diversity of the event. "The Asia/Africa competition has seen the addition of films from new markets like Pakistan and Afghanistan, in addition to award-winning cinema from Japan, Turkey and Iran. Their participation indicates the level to which Dubai has achieved legitimacy in the international industry," commented Al Ali.

The judging panel for the Arab awards will include some of the industry's best known identities, including Geoffrey Gilmore, Jehane Noujaim and Hany Abu Assad.

The film festival will run from December 11-18, 2008.

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