Officials at Abu Dhabi’s inaugural Middle East Intl. Film Fest, set to unspool Oct. 14-19, have lined up staffers and opened their call for entries. In addition to the already-announced appointment of Slamdance founder Jon Fitzgerald as fest director, the fest has tapped an international cast to head their ambitious first edition, including Claudia Durgnat as managing director, Adrienne Briggs as conference director for the Film Financing Circle and Ian Birnie as jury prexy. Nancy Collet and Alice Kharoubi have been set as programmers.
Durgnat joins the fest after 20 years of event producing, including the City of Lights, City of Angels fest in Los Angeles. Birnie is director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art film department, as well as programmer for fests in Toronto, Palm Springs and Bangkok.
Briggs moves from producing film, docus and commercials to head the three-day Film Finance Circle. Event is likely to be the main draw for foreign guests. With Abu Dhabi reputedly the richest city in the world, fest officials will be inviting producers, execs and financiers from Hollywood, Europe and Asia with the express view of funding co-productions.
While Abu Dhabi’s film fund, topped by exec director Nashwa Al Ruweini, will judge projects on a case-by-case basis, Variety understands substantial coin is available for the right projects.
Financial backing also provides the main attraction for the official competish, dubbed the Black Pearls. Section is open to first-time and sophomore helmers from around the world and will award narrative, docu and short kudos. The winning helmers will receive a substantial grant to finance their next project.
“We feel good about our goals. In our first year, we will focus on a small number of sections and films, and create a terrific film financing circle, with players from all over the world,” Fitzgerald says. “It will be a unique forum that will set us apart from other fall fests.”