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Mon 15 Jan 2007 06:16 PM

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DIFF’s new initiatives encourage Arab film production

The Dubai International Film Festival is gradually moving away from its initial attempts to be just a glamorous event.

The Dubai International Film Festival is gradually moving away from its initial attempts to be just a glamorous event. This year, we have seen genuine attempts by the DIFF committee to introduce initiatives that will genuinely encourage more film production in the Arab world. For one, it put in place an Industry Office, an umbrella term used to describe a number of initiatives that paired key industry figures with regional filmmakers, brokering new relationships with funding bodies, producers and distributors.

Specific initiatives that the Industry Office undertook this year included an intensive workshop for UAE Filmmakers and the Lebanese Project Presentation. At the workshop for UAE filmmakers, it was agreed that there was a need to establish a pool of creative producers in the region. The second initiative, the Lebanese Project Presentation offered five Lebanese filmmakers the opportunity to pitch their projects to a group of potential financiers. This was initiated primarily because funds that might have flowed to worthy films are now being invested for reconstruction purposes in the country owing to the current war.

Jane Williams, manager of the Industry Office mentioned at the festival that the Office would aim to implement initiatives that delegates had identified as most pressing.

The Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema, which was held on the concluding night of the festival at the Al Sahra Resort in Dubai, is also further testimony to Dubai's serious efforts to encourage the production of Arab cinema. Filmmakers from the UAE, Palestine, Tunis, Algeria, Tunisia and Yemen walked away with cash awards for their films at the Muhr Awards.

Dubai's leaders seem to be moving ahead in the right direction by creating the right environment for film production. While on the one hand, it is putting in place the infrastructure necessary to enable production, on the other hand, it is also urging more dialogue between foreign producers and local filmmakers to ensure that it leads to some fruitful business deals. Abdulhamid Juma, chairman of DIFF announced that one distribution deal had been confirmed during the festival. Now, that's a start.

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