Over 50,000 admissions in sixth edition of DIFF highlights maturing audience interest

Sat Dec 26,2009

The sixth edition of Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), which concluded recently, recorded 50,113 admissions for the 168 films screened, highlighting a maturing of audience taste for cinema from around the world.

The significant trend of DIFF 2009 was the heightened interest by movie lovers on the wide cross-section of movies than just the mainstream selection. From the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar to Zindeeq, the Muhr Arab award winning feature, DIFF 2009 had a truly eclectic showcase of movies this year.

The power of DIFF’s programming is reflected in the Golden Globe nominations in which several movies screened in Dubai made it to the short-list. In all, DIFF films clinched 15 nominations at the prestigious awards. Both the opening and closing galas of the festival – Nine and Avatar – have won nominations as well as Fantastic Mr Fox, The Princess and the Frog,  and  A Prophet as well as The Hurt Locker, which was screened at DIFF 2008.

DIFF Chairman Abdulhamid Juma said the sixth edition of DIFF defined the festival as one that put a large spectrum of Arab talent in the global spotlight including the world premiere of a full-fledged UAE production, City of Life.

“We hosted six screenings of Dubai Film Connection productions, films that materialized in the Arab world through the active support – financial and contacts – offered by DIFF. These films such as Amreeka, Every Day is A Holiday and City of Life enjoyed strong critical and mass appeal, highlighting the powerful emergence of a new wave in Arab cinema, led by Dubai,” he added.

The strong film sensibility of Dubai audiences was further reiterated with their choice of 12 Angry Lebanese – a documentary for the People’s Choice. The film on Lebanon’s first prisoner theatre group uncovering hidden musical and dramatic talent in a grim jail, triumphed in public appeal over big studio and commercial movies.

DIFF also welcomed celebrities from around the world including Omar Sharif, Amitabh Bachchan, Gerard Butler, Matt Dillon, Christopher Lambert, Mandy Moore, Lluis Homar, Natalie Dormer, Ranbir Kapoor, Mamooty, Hala Sarhan, Somayya Al Kashab, Mostafa Fahmy, Habib Gholoom, Samir Ghanim and Donia Ghanim, Hiam Abbas, Nelly Kareem, Elham Shaheen, Ragha Al Guedawi, Amr Waked, Rania Shawky, Sherine Adel, Khalid Al Sawi and Khalid Taja, among others, providing the glitz and glamour to the festival.

The Dubai Film Connection, the seed fund of the festival, broke previous records with 127 submissions from Arab-origin film-makers around the world. Zindeeq, the Palestine-UK co-production directed by Michel Khleifi, won the US$25,000 Desert Door DIFF Work in Progress Award.

The three DIFF Awards, each offering US$25,000, were presented to Off Frame by Mohanad Yaqubi; Tilsit, by Hicham Falah; and Yasmeen by Amin Matalqua. The $10,000 Bahrain Film Production Company/DIFF Development Award went to The Making Of by Mahdi Fleifel; and Free Men by Ismael Ferroukhi, won the ARTE Prize of €6,000.

The industry workshops were well-attended, apart from the Students Day, which was attended by over 300 students, with three young directors sharing valuable tips to the attendees. DIFF’s Dubai Film Market hosted over 3,100 screenings for industry buyers, nearly three times over 2008. Potential industry buyers had a total of 323 films at their fingertips via state-of-the-art touch-screens.

DIFF 2009 also announced new initiatives to further strengthen the cinema culture in Dubai through partnerships with Front Row Filmed Entertainment and Reel Cinemas.

DIFF and Front Row will unveil a special ‘DIFF Selection’ of eight DVDs per year of films screened at the festival over the past six years, and to be distributed through Virgin Megastores across the Middle East and others.

In 2010, DIFF and The Picturehouse, the dedicated arthouse cinema at Reel Cinemas, will screen eight titles of regional Arab talent, in addition to hosting country-focused dedicated screenings twice a year, showcasing a selection of films from chosen destinations.

DIFF 2009 was held in association with Dubai Studio City. Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline and Madinat Jumeirah were the principal sponsors of DIFF and the event was supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).

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