DIFF Daily 2011

Making connections

Dec 11,2011 - 02:31 PM

BY RANIA HABIB

The Dubai Film Connection (DFC) Awards will be presented today, after three days of networking, pitching, deliberating, and finally agreeing. Filmmakers behind the 15 selected projects have filled the DFC rooms with their ideas over the past week, looking for that crucial push to get their projects rolling.

Katia Jarjoura, the Lebanese-Canadian director of documentaries such as ‘Goodbye Mubarak!’ (2011) and ‘The Road to Kerbala’ (2004), is back at DIFF after screening ‘In Their Blood’ in 2009. But this year, she’s at the DFC for the first time, to pitch her first feature film, ‘The Eye of the Devil’.

‘I’m overwhelmed with meetings,’ she says. ‘But this is great. Some meetings will motivate us and stimulate us, and we learn who from the international market would be interest in co-production.’

Jarjoura’s project – a story set during the Iraq-Iran war - is still in the scriptwriting stage, and she’s looking for financial support to fine-tune the story. ‘These kinds of projects can only work if they’re a part of an international co-operation.’

Mahmoud Al Massad is also back at DFC this year, after his previous project ‘This is My Picture When I Was Dead’ - which won a DIFF Award of USD25,000 in 2008 - found international success as well as winning the First Prize in the 2010 Muhr Arab Documentary Awards.

His project-in-the-making this year is a dark comedy ‘Blessed Benefit’, and Massad says he’s now making movies for Arab audiences, but doesn’t feel Arab filmmakers get enough exposure from their own media. He says the DFC is a lifeline for Arab filmmakers.

‘It’s such a great help, we can breathe a sigh of relief here,’ he says. ‘We used to go to Cannes or to Berlin, to all these foreign film markets, but this is brilliant for Arabs because it encourages them to create. But we need more. I am sick and tired of trying to get money from the West to tell our Arab stories back to the West. So I really want to make this project locally.’

Hyam Salibi a first-time DFC jury member, says it’s been an interesting couple of days, hearing filmmakers pitch for their projects. However, she would like to see larger awards presented, to further encourage filmmakers, and to nurture a greater variety of projects. ‘They have really good documentaries; even though I’m a distributor, and for distributors, documentaries aren’t very well liked as in the Middle East, we don’t release documentaries in theatres.’

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