Dubai International Film Festival Creates Launch Pad for Homegrown Talent

Mon Oct 31,2005

Dubai, October 31, 2005 – Five exceptional films from up-and-coming national filmmakers will be screened to international and local audiences from December 11 to 17 as part of the second Dubai International Film Festival’s new UAE-focused program section, organizers said yesterday. The new Emerging Emiratis program, which puts UAE filmmakers on par with cinema from the Americas, Europe, Africa and the subcontinent in the Festival line-up, grew out of the UAE Special Event at the inaugural Festival last year. “The new program dedicated to the UAE is our way of expressing our commitment to filmmakers from our community and encouraging the development of local filmmaking from local filmmakers,” Festival CEO and Director Neil Stephenson said. “Judging by the quality of work we have seen so far, and the positive response to the UAE films shown last year, it is an honor richly deserved.” “We feel very strongly about backing up our words with actions,” Stephenson added. “Our goal is for DIFF to be the world’s destination for discovering new and interesting Arab cinema, and this new section is part of that high-level strategic goal. We are also passionate about supporting UAE filmmakers and we want DIFF to boost and showcase these filmmakers to the world”. Masoud Amralla Al Ali, director of the annual Emirates Film Competition and programmer of the new section, said the decision to give space to young national filmmakers marks a key step in the development of cinema in the Emirates. “The cinema movement in the UAE is still very young and weak, but this decision will go a long way in its long-term development,” Amralla said. “The new Festival program encourages national filmmakers by giving them a platform, and also shows local audiences what they can achieve.” Although the international response to UAE films has been very positive, developing a local audience is crucial to the future of filmmaking in this country, Amralla added. “If we do not have enough of an audience, and the audience is not confident of the filmmakers’ abilities, filmmaking will not be viable in this country,” he said. “Only when there is a response can the industry move forward into feature films and other refinements.” From a serious contemplation about the perception versus reality of Islam to a lighthearted traditional tale of djinns, the five short films selected for this year’s Emerging Emiratis program represent the diversity in UAE filmmaking. An Ordinary Day (Youm Aadi), a film about the capricious nature of creativity, opens the program. The short film won director Omar Ibrahim the DIFF Award for Exceptional Talent in Filmmaking at the 2005 edition of the Emirates Film Competition. The award, instituted on the heels of the inaugural Festival as a sign of its commitment to local filmmakers, includes a cash prize and an entry into the Festival program. Under the Sun (Taht El Shams), the first film from emerging director Ali F. Mostafa, walks alongside a 13-year-old Muslim boy through his first day of fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. The film delves into the boy’s experiences of practicing Islam in a modern city, and also shines a light on international perceptions and misconceptions about Islam. Amen (Ameen), director Abdullah Hassan Ahmed’s social film about the fractured relationship between a father and son, and the son’s love for a disabled girl, has also been confirmed for the program. Dying for Fun (Al Maout Lel Mota’a), an acclaimed film from director Nada Mohammed Al Karimi and one that has already played to rave reviews in a Lebanon documentary film festival, follows the story of dyed chicks from the time they are hatched and coloured to their arrival and premature death in family homes. Hoboob, an inventive short film directed by Saeed Salmeen Al-Murry, is based on a traditional djinn folk tale and tells the story of a young citizen who tries to dig a well in a remote village. Choosing the four films out of a potential 145 submissions was no easy task, Amralla said. “I tried to find quality films that conveyed our stories, our lives as Emiratis,” he said. “The five films are diverse in style and content, but they each present a window into our culture.” The five selected filmmakers are also very excited to participate in the Festival, and hopes are already running high for more films to be included in next year’s Emerging Emiratis section. “This is a very good opportunity for me and my fellow national filmmakers,” said Omar Ibrahim. “People come to the Festival from around the world, but they don’t only come to watch the international films. We can show them that there is a growing tradition of cinema here, and by being part of the Festival we can learn from them, increase our exposure and improve our abilities.” The final schedule of Festival films and attendees is expected at the end of November alongside the opening of the Festival box office. The second Dubai International Film Festival will be held between December 11 and 17, 2005, and will feature approximately 85 films including features, retrospectives and short films. DIFF 2005 is divided into 12 distinct programs - including five brand new sections - each focusing on a particular category of film.

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