Slamdance co-founder named director

Abu Dhabi film officials have tapped Slamdance fest co-founder Jon Fitzgerald director of the inaugural Middle East Film Festival, set to unspool Oct. 12-17 in the oil-rich emirate.

In addition to co-founding Slamdance in 1995 and serving as its exec director for two years, Fitzgerald was also director of the AFI Film Fest between 1997-99 and exec director of the Santa Barbara Film Festival. He also had a hand in launching the Bahamas fest.

“I was struck by Abu Dhabi’s commitment to developing a lasting impression and the potential impact on the regional and international arts committee,” Fitz-gerald said.

Officials also announced Monday that the event will have a competitive section, dubbed the Black Pearl Awards, with nods to be bestowed on both interna-tional and local helmers. Black Pearl winners also will receive coin to make their next projects.

Abu Dhabi officials are positioning the fest with a determined industry focus. “We want to be the Davos of the film world,” festival exec director Nashwa Al-Ruwaini said.

In addition to local film preems, the event will include a finance conference. Fest officials hope to tap into the lucrative pool of Arab investors, particularly those based in the Persian Gulf, who have previously avoided putting coin into the film biz. “This is a great opportunity to provide information, resources and education to an enthusiastic audience seeking investment opportunities in the motion picture space,” Al-Ruwaini added.

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