Young fest grows in importance

When it launched in 2004, Dubai seemed to want to offer all things to all people. But it has become the premier showcase of Arab cinema on the film fest calendar. The introduction of the Muhr Awards in 2006, celebrating excellence in Arab filmmaking, gave the fest a purpose, and more important, a substantial reason to exist in the eye-popping splendor of its host city’s ever-expanding skyline.

This year, Dubai hosts the amfAR AIDS research charity auction, based on the star-studded and successful Cannes event, and hosted by Sharon Stone.

The last few months have been challenging ones for the fest organizers: There was an unseemly public spat with former fest director Neil Stephenson, while the emergence of the ambitious Middle East Intl. Film Festival in Abu Dhabi could prove of longer-lasting concern.

But in July, Dubai’s chairman, Abdulhamid Juma, agreed, along with reps from Cairo and Rabat, to head the new Arab Film Festival Guild to improve dialogue between the events as well as start work on a database of Arab filmmakers.

“More festivals is good for filmmaking,” Juma says. “It means there will be more platforms for Arab films to be seen. In Dubai we have a policy and strategy of giving back to help Arab filmmakers.”

FEST INFO

When: Dec. 9-16

Web: dubaifilmfest.com

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