DIFF Daily 2011

Where do we go now?

Dec 09,2011 - 02:47 PM

Dubai Film Connection turns 5 today.
RANIA HABIB tracks down some of its alumni.

Where do we go now?

From script to screen, and back to script. Filmmakers in the making have come to the Dubai Film Connection (DFC) year after year to realise their nascent storylines into full-blown co-productions. Some have even presented their completed films at past Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) editions, and others are here this year to showcase their collaborations.

Producer Talal Al Muhanna first came to DFC in 2009 with his project ‘Beit Sha’ar/Nomad’s Home’, with Egyptian director Iman Kamel. A year later, it premiered at DIFF. ‘It was a very important time for us [in 2009] because the film was in desperate need of completion funding,’ says Muhanna. ‘We were fortunate that the project found a coproduction partner in the form of the Dubai Entertainment and Media Organisation, directly as a result of our participation in the DFC. So it was instrumental in providing the final boost for that project to get out into the world, and I can only hope for a similar good fortune with our new project “Whose Country?”’

‘Whose Country?’, a collaboration with Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Siam, is an animated projec, looking at the lives of Cairo policemen who have experienced personal and professional traumas following the fall of the Mubarak regime.

Dima El Horr’s ‘Everyday is a Holiday’ won the Desert Door DIFF Work in Progress Award at DFC 2008 and screened at DIFF 2010. This year she’ll be presenting ‘Ideal Love’ at the DFC, a tale of a young woman who dreams of exile, and of course, perfect love. ‘I hope the DFC this year will give me the chance to move forward with the writing and the production of this project.’ says Horr.

A DFC first-timer, Wissam Charaf is exploring his country’s political past and present with ‘It’s All in Lebanon’ in the Arabian Nights programme - and he’ll be pitching ‘Back to The Jungle’ at the DFC. ‘It’s still in preproduction,’ says Charaf. ‘The goal would be to find partners who would be eager to participate in the financial montage of the film. The DFC is very helpful because of the pitching exercise, which we’re not very used to in the Arab world. It’s a modern pre-production opportunity, and is a pretty good network to start a buzz on a film project.’

In the five years since DFC was set up and seen its alumni move on to making feature films, the region has become a hotspot for film festivals. In 2007, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival was established and the Doha Tribeca Film Festival launched in 2009. Charaf says this means the centre of Arab film funding is slowly relocating to the Gulf.

Ahd Kamel, a Saudi filmmaker whose feature ‘Smile You’re in Jeddah’ was picked up at DFC 2009, says she’s witnessing increasing interest in Arab cinema. ‘Filmmakers like Nadine Labaki and Cherien Debas amongst others prove that.’ she says.

Muhanna cites the example of the establishment of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture in Egypt in 2007. ‘It’s also further encouraged creativity throughout the region, by providing funds and facilitating cultural exchange and cooperation across the Arab world, and globally.’

‘The combined total of all these initiatives is kind of drawing these wonderful talents out into the open, and giving producers like myself an opportunity to connect with them and learn about their work,’ he says. ‘This was not so fluid or applicable some years ago.’

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