Film makers need to resist commercial pressures to build cultural bridges says DIFF 2005 expert pane

Thu Dec 15,2005

Dubai, December 15, 2005: An expert panel at the 2nd Dubai International Film Festival discussed the powerful role of cinema in building cultural bridges and concluded that regional film makers need to continue to resist commercial pressures and voice the Arab viewpoint. Explaining commercial pressure, the panelists commented on the attraction of Hollywood that lures Arab talent into giving up their independent aspirations. The ‘Building Cultural Bridges’ panel discussion was moderated by Finn Halligan, International Editor, Screen International. The participants were Niv Fichman, Executive Producer, Rhombus Media; Larry Kardish, Senior Curator, Department of Films, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Irene Bignardi, Correspondent, La Repubblica; and Anant Singh, South Africa’s pre-eminent film producer and partner, Distant Horizons. Canadian producer Niv Fichman shed light on the power of Hollywood in luring away the most crucial component in film making – talent. “The Canadian film industry has all but been obliterated by the power of Hollywood. What remains is a handful of talented people who have resisted its charms. For me, Deepa Mehta’s Water is a Canadian film. It is about a past era in India, shot in Sri Lanka, with an international crew and cast. This reflected the multicultural nature of Canadian society,” he said. Shedding light on his decision to remain out of Hollywood’s ambit of, Anant Singh said that out of his 58 films, he had made just one in there and now is fiercely independent. Coming from South Africa’s pre-eminent film maker, responsible for ‘Place of Weeping,’ ‘Sarafina!’ and ‘Cry, the Beloved Country,’ this is warning enough. Drawing on her experience as Director of the Locarno Film Festival for many years, Irene Bignardi said: “Governments start the ball rolling when it comes to hosting and initiating film festivals, the most involving forum where people discover the voice of other cultures and where their own voice is discovered. In Dubai, the government has done its part. The film industry is now taking up the challenge of bridging cultural divisions and creating awareness and understanding,” she said. Commenting on the controversy-free nature of the Dubai International Film Festival, Larry Kardish said that it was not easy to organise a film festival and to keep it controversy free. “Ever since the first Viennale, we have seen some sort of controversy dogging most festivals. The key issue facing Arab cinema is that it needs to provide its talent with a place where they can express their creativity, or they will migrate. Dubai is such a place where documentary and independent film making will bloom.”

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