Moustapha Akkad Foundation Will Be Established to Further Cause of Emerging Filmmakers, Akkad’s Son

Thu Dec 15,2005

Dubai, December 15, 2005 – A new foundation dedicated to the memory of the Arab-born international filmmaker Moustapha Akkad will be established to aid young directors with internships, networking and logistical support, the son of the late filmmaker announced at the Dubai Film Festival on Wednesday, December 14.

Malek Al Akkad, an established producer and director in his own right, announced the foundation at the culmination of a special tribute panel organized by Dubai Studio City and the Dubai International Film Festival to honor the producer-director killed in last month’s suicide-bomb blasts in Jordan. The foundation, to be set up by the family, will offer grants, organize competitions to discover new and emerging talents and be a resource for young filmmakers.

Dubai Film Festival Director and CEO Neil Stephenson began the morning’s panel by crediting Akkad as one of the few visionaries in the Arab world who actively built bridges between cultures, one of the Festival’s key aims. Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, head of Dubai Studio City and Dubai Media City, said Moustapha Akkad had enriched the Arab and international cinema beyond measure with his innovative filmmaking.

“Moustapha Akkad brought light into the shadows, carved his own space in the international filmmaking community, and made great contributions to the heritage of the Arab world,” she told the capacity crowd gathered at the Madinat Theatre. “His work will remain as a testimonial to the capabilities of Arabs to move beyond the limitations of space and language to achieve international acclaim. In the book of history, his life and his life’s work will be written in lines of light.”

The legendary producer-director’s son also added his memories of his father and the legacy he left behind. “My father’s works were aimed at making the world aware of the true image of Islam and Arabs through the language of cinema,” Malek Al Akkad told the hundreds of filmmakers, industry delegates, members of the diplomatic corps and fans gathered at the Madinat Theatre for the special event.

“Throughout his life, all my dad’s dreams and ambitions were associated to his religion, his nation, his values and his beliefs. He retained all those values even after he moved from this part of the world to study and work in the United States.” Moustapha Akkad, whose films The Message (Al Risala), about the life and times of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and Lion of the Desert, about legendary Libyan leader Omar Mukhtar and his struggles to throw off the colonial powers in Libya became crossover hits in the Arab world and in the West, kept his dream of bridging cultures alive even in the face of death threats against him and the Al Akkad family, he added.

“He dreamed of filling the cultural gap that separates the Arab world and the West,” Malek Al Akkad said. “He chose to make films that would make the world aware of the true image of Islam and Arabs, though the language of cinema and immortal movies such as The Message (Al Risalah), which has been translated into tens of languages and viewed by millions around the world, and Lion of the Desert (Omar Mukhtar), which is one of the rare movies with a positive image of the Arab Muslim man.”

Akkad’s son thanked Dubai Studio City and the Dubai International Film Festival for organizing and hosting the tribute to his father, and praised the Festival’s key aim of bridging cultures through film. The Tribute, held at the Madinat Theatre on the fourth day of the ongoing Dubai Film Festival, also featured renowned Arab actors Duraid Lahham and Mouna Wassif and other prominent speakers including Akkad business associate and friend Nabeel Al Daou, and famous critic and author Mohammed Redha.

Lahham, a close friend of Akkad, praised the late producer as a courageous artist who chose to remain attached to his roots and a filmmaker who dedicated his cinematic tools to serving the Arab and Muslim community. Moustapha Akkad, he added, was not a man who sought international attention, but attracted it by virtue of his work and his beliefs.

“It is lamentable that certain Arab filmmakers try to acquire international acclaim by adopting Western ideas that distort the image of Arabs and filmmakers,” Lahham told the crowd packed into the Madinat Theatre. “When darkness prevails, we cannot see the face of the moon, and we will miss Moustapha Akkad every day.” Syrian actress Mouna Wassif, who was discovered by Akkad 30 years ago, said she regretted that Akkad was only honored after his death, and not during his lifetime. Nabeel Al Daou, another panelist, added that although Akkad had been honored by kings, heads of state and other cinema elite, he considered the common man the most valuable judge of his work. Panel moderator Mohammed Redha advised the gathered listeners and the representatives of the filmmaking community to follow in the path that Akkad created.

“Moustapha Akkad faced a number of difficulties in his career, but overcame them with his artistic intelligence, patience and persistence as he moved toward his dream of positioning Arab cinema in its appropriate place on the international cinema map,” Redha said. The Festival, he added, will go a long way in fulfilling the same goal. The second Dubai International Film Festival ends Saturday, December 17, and features 98 films including features, retrospectives and short films. Tickets and an entire schedule of the Festival films are available on the Dubai Film Festival website, and at Festival box offices around the city.

The Festival is presented by Dubai Media City and its Founding Sponsors are Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Properties, Emirates, Etisalat and the Madinat Jumeirah – the Arabian Resort. The Festival’s Gold Sponsors are Bin Hendi Enterprises, National Bank of Dubai, Showtime, The Kanoo Group and The Palm Jumeirah; the Silver Sponsors are Filmworks, Motivate Publishing and Sony.

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