Second Dubai Film Festival ends on triumphant note

Sat Dec 17,2005

Dubai, December 17, 2005 - The second Dubai International Film Festival ended on a triumphant note today to ringing endorsement from international and regional celebrities, industry representatives, filmmakers, media and UAE-based Festival-goers. More than 30,000 screening admissions were recorded during the week-long event, a 60 percent increase over last year’s attendance. Nearly a fourth of the Festival films, 23 of the 98, were completely sold out, with 72 of the 186 screenings on standby-only status, a nearly 100 percent jump from last year’s numbers.

Close to 100 celebrities from around the world also attended this year’s Festival, in addition to 420 filmmaker, talent and industry guests. The event also made headlines around the world, with more than 650 members of the world, regional and local press covering the Festival. ‘The response to our second Festival has been very positive, and these high numbers are only one part of the picture,’ said Festival Director and CEO Neil Stephenson.

‘We’ve received great feedback from our international and regional guests, our filmmakers and local Festival-goers, who were thrilled not only with the diversity of films and opportunities to interact with the filmmakers and industry representatives, but also with the breadth of their experience in Dubai.’ In the days to come, he said, DIFF organizers will review all the results and operational milestones, looking for areas that need improvement and aspects that worked particularly well.

Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, Executive Director of Media for the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, said the Festival had also spurred the growth of the film industry in the UAE. ‘The Festival was very well received by both the UAE and international community, and has been a very strong catalyst for the future of filmmaking and production here in Dubai,’ she said. ‘We at Dubai Studio City have already received six proposals for film production here in Dubai, including two from Hollywood and two from Egypt, in addition to strong interest from investors in establishing facilities here in Dubai.’

Industry participation reached a new high at this year’s Festival, with more than 150 guests from the leading film festivals, distributors, sales agents, film institutes and production companies of the world present. Key producers from the UK, US, Canada, France, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt were out in force, liaising with their counterparts from the region at the specialized networking events organized as part of the Festival. ‘In its second year, our Festival has really registered with some of the top people in the international film industry,’ DIFF CEO Stephenson said. ‘Some of the biggest industry executives in the world - including Barrie Osborne, Sumner Redstone and Alan Ladd Jr - are very interested in DIFF, and will be watching our next steps keenly.’

International filmmakers and distributors who attended the Festival have also expressed interest in using Dubai as a shooting location and a base of operations for this part of the world. Filmmakers from the UAE and the Arab world were also very heartened by the response to their screenings, Dr. Al Rustamani added. \“The Dubai Film Festival is uniquely positioned, even among the festivals of the Arab world. Its reach, its diversity, and its focuses on showcasing Arab cinema and attracting leading executives from the international world of cinema makes this a vital stop for those in every level of the industry,\” she said.

If box office numbers are any indication, this year’s Festival generated the interest and excitement of thousands of UAE residents and visitors. Ticket sales were reported from as far away as Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, and throughout the region, with tickets bought in Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. Two of the Festival’s incentive programs - the free open-air screenings at the Dubai Media City amphitheatre, and the Six-Tix special offering six tickets for the price of five - were particularly well received, with more than 3,000 people attending the ‘Screen on the Green’ series of family films over five Festival days, with capacity crowds every evening; and another 2,800 Festival-goers enrolling in the Six Tix program.

Box office records also confirm widespread interest in all the program sections, including the new programs dedicated to Africa, Europe, the Far East, Emirati filmmakers and emerging Arab filmmakers. Audience turnout was strong throughout the week, peaking at the weekend. The international media also turned out in full force for the Festival, with representation from Sri Lanka, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, South Korea, India, France and the United States in addition to the hundreds of UAE-based media.

After more than a year in the making and the combined efforts of more than 600 staff and volunteers, the week-long Festival culminated in a grand gala screening on Friday night, when award-winning French film Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) was screened to an audience of close to 800 people. A desert dinner will also be hosted later today (Saturday, December 17) as a mark of appreciation for all Festival visitors, delegates and staff.

The second Dubai International Film Festival ran from December 11 to 17, and featured 98 films including features, retrospectives and short films. The Festival was 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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