10 Years of Passion
They say that heading to the cinema is mostly regarded as an act of unwinding after a long day or week of work. However, very few cinema viewers stop to think about how they are influenced by what they watch! The cinematic world is truly the culture of cultures and there is always a film for everyone.
On a quiet morning in 2004, newspapers in Dubai ran a report announcing the launch of a film festival in the emirate. A flurry of phone calls and text messages followed in the Emirates Cinematic society, as cinephiles in the city thought and whispered amongst themselves “at last!” The festival then showcased 76 films, including one world premiere, and welcomed filmmakers and celebrities such as Morgan Freeman and Sarah Michelle Gellar. The festival forever changed the cultural landscape of the city. Led by a fantastic team of international programmers who roamed across the world and selected the best of world cinema for Dubai, DIFF instantly became the most-anticipated annual cultural event in the region.
Working with the power of celebrities, DIFF has championed several philanthropic initiatives and hosted charity auction galas to raise money for humanitarian causes. This year, the festival hosted the Oxfam-Dubai Cares gala for the children and families affected by the Syrian crisis. From the guest list, actress Rooney Mara and actor Mark Ruffallo showed up this time to mark their support for the cause.
As DIFF celebrated its 10 year anniversary, it also celebrated one of its greatest achievements, the dramatic raise of the profile of Arab Cinema and Arab Filmmakers. As a platform to launch an Arab Film, DIFF is considered a must. Each year, Arab directors are delighted at the possibility of presenting their work to the multi-ethnic, diverse audience that Dubai offers. Each year, the expatriate population of Dubai takes home a slice of Arab life that had previously been unknown or misunderstood. As for competition, The Muhr Awards competition for filmmakers from the UAE, Arab World, Asia and Africa, has become an important barometer of a film’s merit and future success.
Through several industry initiatives, partnerships and services, DIFF’s Dubai Film Market has facilitated the development of Arab talent, the exchange of ideas with professionals from around the world, and has contributed to the growth of a homegrown local and regional film industry.
DIFF made sure to pay homage for its past editions, so if you’ve missed any of the previous festivals, DIFF celebrated its 10th anniversary by making every film previously screened available on iTunes.com/DIFF.
An International Film Fest Dedicated to Local Cinematic Substance
A decade after its launch, the DIFF has firmly earned its leadership role among
Middle Eastern events, thanks to its striving drive to be international with an Arab kernel. Aside from presenting films from around the globe, the festival has always focused on having an Arab competition. The other essential key aspect is that DIFF runs the only film market in the Arab world.
For its 10 year celebration, DIFF organizers have added a pre-fest Cinematic Innovation Summit, aiming to put people who are exploring filmmaking’s new frontiers in contact with each other and with the Arab media industry. It has also teamed up with Bahrain’s Naqsh Short Film Days to bring a selection of Emirati films to the festival of more than 85 shorts.
DIFF has also partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bring a showcase of Arab films to U.S. audiences, among other joint initiatives. The inaugural two-day innovation summit included industry veterans such as Pixar co-founder Alvy Ray Smith, “Avatar” actor Stephen Lang, motion-capture maestro actor Andy Serkis, and many top-notch Hollywood producers.
The film fest boasted an especially strong Arab cinema selection this year, starting with its Muhr Arab feature film competition as Syrian Auteur Mohamed Malas was there with “Ladder to Damascus”, a meditation on his country’s destruction, shot in the midst of armed conflict with bombs exploding near the set. Algerian-born Amor Hakkar also had the world premier of his film “The Proof”, which delves into relationships, marriage and gender roles in a changing Algerian society. We can’t forget Morocco’s Laila Marakchi, who unspooled her film “Rock the Casbah”, featuring an all-star ensemble cast that includes Hiam Abbas, Nadine Labaki, and Omar Sharif.
Around 65 of the roughly 170 pictures that were screened this year were world premieres, most of which were from Arab filmmakers which, as always, account for about half the lineup. There was, as always, a strong Asian and African presence. The rest of the lineup included high-profile titles from the rest of the world.
Let us not forget to mention the special gala closing this year, with David O. Russel’s “America Hustle,” making its fest bow and perhaps shoring up the DIFF’s management claim that Dubai has become one of the festivals that international studios are looking at when they plan their launch strategies. David O. Russel and the film producers presented themselves the film at the closing show, preceded by the stunning performance of American-Lebanese singer Mayssa Karaa with song “The White Rabbit”, which is featured in the film score!
This makes sense after that we consider the double-digit box office growth in the region over the past decade. The Gulf now accounts for more than half the total theatrical intake in the Arab world, with grosses expected to reach at least $140 million this year, according to film analysts.