Debut festival has big dreams

As the newest kid on the region’s block, the Middle East Intl. Film Festival arguably has the most to prove and the potential to be the most exciting of all the Arab film fests.

Backed by the government of oil-rich emirate Abu Dhabi — reputedly the single richest city in the world — the fest certainly has the financial clout to muscle onto the world stage.

Its international competition, the Black Pearl Awards, will honor first-time or sophomore filmmakers for best feature, docu and short.

More significantly, the awards will offer substantial prize money — the sum to be determined by the budget of the winner’s next project. “Whether the next project is $1 million or $10 million or more, we’re committing to helping get the project made,” says fest director Jon Fitzgerald. “It’s going to be the biggest prize of its kind that I’ve ever seen.”

Aspiring helmers will also get the opportunity to pitch for funding at the three-day Film Finance Circle. Choosing the successful projects will be a team of producers and industry professionals.

“We’re going to bring in a team of ‘angels’ like film financers, producers and executives to support each finalist,” Fitzgerald says. “They’ll get together to talk about the best way to pitch the project. They will then do an onstage pitch in front of a live audience and panel of judges. The wining project will also be funded.”

The fest also will tie into the stream of cultural activity currently taking place in Abu Dhabi. A film commission, academy and fund — with apparently no ceiling if the right project comes along — have all been set up with the expressed intention of making Abu Dhabi the premier Arab location for film execs from the region and beyond.

FEST INFO

When: Oct. 14-19

Web: meiff.com

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