By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Jamal Al Sharif, CEO of the Dubai Film and TV Commission, says new events will complement the past work of events such as the Dubai International Film Festival
Dubai “had to move on” from the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) to focus on rapidly changing technology and content and focus more on the work of Emirati and Arab filmmakers, according to Jamal Al Sharif, the CEO of the Dubai Film and TV Commission.
On Wednesday, the Dubai Film and TV Commission and Dubai Media City announced the line-up for On.DXB, a regional festival designed to support industry growth and talent development in media, entertainment and content development. The event will focus on films, music, online content and video games.
When asked about the future of DIFF, Al Sharif said that “event names, or event brand names, eventually change depending on the era and place we’re in.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I can’t predict that, and I don’t know what will happen in another five or ten years,” he added. “Technology is moving, content is changing, so we had to move on.”
In April 2018, it was announced that DIFF would take place every two years and would return in December 2019. An earlier event, the Gulf Film Festival, was “postponed” in 2014 and never returned. On Wednesday, Al Sharif said the event was an example of a festival that had “morphed”.
The On.DXB event, Al Sharif said, is a reflection of the fact that Dubai is “experimenting with a whole new media industry”.
“This (On.DXB) should be complementing other events that we did in the past,” he added. “We learned a lot from the other events, therefore we’re not missing film. Film will be there.”
Additionally, Al Sharif said that in the future, he would like On.DXB and any future film-focused events to focus more on the work of UAE-based and regional filmmakers, rather than the work of filmmakers based in the West or elsewhere around the globe.
“I’ve been asking the team to focus more on local and regional films. I’m really keen on developing more local talent,” he said. “It’s beautiful to see Hollywood and Bollywood films. We’ve grown with these films, but we want to evolve. It’s time to tell the world what the UAE has to tell, and what our story is.”
In the future, Al Sharif said that Dubai hopes to do “something bigger” than DIFF.
“We can do bigger than the rest of the world,” he said.
The On.DXB event, which will run from November 21 to 23 at Dubai Studio City, will include talent-led discussions and keynote talks from the likes of American filmmaker Spike Lee, Tom Beattie, the producer of the animated version of Mr. Bean, British actor and rapper Kano, and gaming icon MjrmGames.
Lee, who won a ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ Oscar for BlacKkKlansman in 2019, will chart his 30-year journey from heralded indie breakout Do The Right Thing to Oscar glory during ‘An Audience with Spike Lee’. The headline session will take place in a 1,000-seater dedicated film theatre in the On.DXB Festival Square.
On.DXB will close with Kano, the UK’s ‘King of Grime’, performing on the main stage on Saturday November 23 in front of an audience of over 2,000 fans in the Festival Square. He will be supported by Egyptian trap artist Wegz and UAE-based Somali rapper Freek.
Actor and producer Liza Koshy, who has a captive audience of 25 million YouTube subscribers with Liza on Demand, will deliver a digital content keynote during the event.
On the gaming side, MjrmGames, the Saudi-based gamer and one of the most watched YouTubers in the Arab World, will discuss how he has built a captive YouTube audience of 6.7 million subscribers.
Having released a ‘Call for Content’ to regional film, game, video and music industry talent, On.DXB has received more than 250 submissions from across the GCC and Levant, as well as international entries.
Industry judges will select the best submissions across all four categories, with showcases scheduled throughout the festival weekend. The top selected finalists will also pitch to a judging panel for a prize designed to accelerate ideas, careers and creative work.
Dubai-based independent filmmaker Asri Bendacha, Emirati filmmaker Mustafa Abbas and Afnan Al Qassimi, the screenwriter of Boxing Girls, are all confirmed to speak at the festival, along with other film-focused experts from Image Nation, Dolby and Endemol.