Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has partnered with Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) in New York, the nation’s oldest and largest organisation of independent filmmakers in a bid to encourage, nurture and provide opportunities for Arab filmmakers to connect with financiers, influencers and decision-makers in film that can help them complete their films and connect with new audiences.

Last month Jane Williams, DIFF’s Film Connection & Film Forum Director headed to New York to participate in Independent Film Week, a one-of-a-kind event that brings the international film and media community to New York to advance new voices and projects on the independent scene. 

Can you tell us why DIFF wanted to establish a relationship with the IFP and what is involved?

Jane Williams: The key reason we wanted to work with the Independent Filmmaker Project is because they’re the leading organisation for independent producers in New York and people involved with the IFP are the kind of people who are interested in working with filmmakers from the Arab world. 

Within the partnership we take a project from the Dubai Film Connection and we present it in NY during No Borders Co-Production Market. Last year during the eighth edition of Dubai International Film Festival, producer Georges Schoucair presented the film Beirut Hold'em, an upcoming film that received the OIF award (5000€) during the Dubai Film Connection. This was the selected film we took to New York with the objective of finding producers who will be interested in getting involved in Beirut Hold’em and working with the IFP can help us achieve this. 

Also Dubai wants to raise its profile in New York because it’s culturally a place where we want to make connections and there’s a growing  audience that are interested in what’s coming out of the Arab world. 

What can you tell us about the filmmakers who you met this year through the IFP?

Jane Williams:  What always strikes about me about coming into contact with filmmakers associated with the IFP is that they have an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm. They are incredibly positive and if you want to understand how to make a film on absolutely no budget at all this is the place to go because these guys don’t sit around and wait until funding is made available.  They’re all making films in the most resourceful way that they can using their imagination and creativity to make films under any circumstances. It was very interesting to see there is a well established micro-budget film community in NY.  Also because of the improvements in new technology the films that are being made are impressive in terms of production value. So, it was very exciting and because they’re not going through the traditional routes of trying to raise finance which can takes years the output is much faster, they can take more risks with the form and the content because they don’t have to get the approvals from a mainstream cinema industry.

Is there an increasing demand for films coming out of the Arab world?

Jane Williams:  There is definitely an interest in films coming out of the region. We are all familiar in the West with what’s going on in the Middle East from what we see on television. But the filmmakers are the ones that are showing us what day-to-day life is like and for a lot of people that’s what they want to see and know more about. I think it’s changing; we've had a lot of successes this year with films going to all the international festivals and some of them doing really well. For example a film like Wadjda from Haifaa al-Mansour, the success of this film has ramifications for all Arab filmmakers because she has made a successful film that people like and are interested in and so that starts to whet the appetite of the audiences for more.  

Will the IFP have a presence at this year’s DIFF?

Jane Williams:  Yes, one of the representatives from the IFP along with a producer will be coming over to participate in the Dubai Film Connection (DFC) and meet with Arab filmmakers and look at their projects, so we’re very excited to continue the conversations with talent here in the region and the IFP. 

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