Arab film fests set up guild

Body to co-ordinate events

LONDON — Four of the Arab world’s leading film fests have joined forces to create the region’s first Arab film festival guild.

New body, to be chaired by the Dubai Intl. Film Fest, also includes Cairo, Damascus and Rabat film fests.

Bi-annual meetings will be held at the Cairo and Damascus events to increase co-operation during the increasingly crowded Arab film fest calendar.

New body will also look at ways to build up a comprehensive database of Arab films, filmmakers and industry execs to encourage the promotion of Arab cinema both in the region and internationally.

“The guild will establish an alliance to ensure the rapid development of the Arab film industry and to help it gain international prestige,” said Abdulhamid Juma, chairman of Dubai Intl. Film Fest, which unspools Dec. 9-16.

“This common interest will form the basis of all initiatives for the Arab Film Festival Guild and will propel us forward toward our goal.”

Guild was agreed on the sidelines of the Rabat Intl. Film Fest. A second meeting will be hosted by the Cairo Intl. Film Fest on Nov. 27.

Other Arab film fests will be invited to join the body in the meantime. Officials from Marrakech and Carthage sent messages of support but could not attend in person. The fests are expected to formally join the guild at a later stage.

Each new month seems to bring with it a new Arab film fest. This year sees the bow of new fests in Abu Dhabi and Algeria. Guild will look to keep direct competition between rival fests to a minimum, with a premium on constructive co-operation and dialogue.

There is also scope for shared guestlists, as Cairo and Dubai have done in the past, in essence creating an Arab film fest tour for visiting Western celebs and execs.

Body is also hoping to champion and facilitate access to Arab films to western fests, which are increasingly taking an interest in cinema from the region. Taormina fest, for example, held a gala evening celebrating the centenary of Egyptian cinema while Locarno, which runs Aug. 1-11, will focus on cinema from the Middle East in its Open Doors co-production mart. Thirteen projects from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria have been selected for the program.

“We need to talk and communicate,” said Juma. “This is the best platform to make it happen with no obligation.”

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