When: Oct. 10-19

Where: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Festival dir.: Nashwa Al-Ruwaini

Web: meiff.com

Abu Dhabi’s Middle East Intl. Film Festival launched with a bang last year with an inaugural edition that promised the richest prize money offered on the fest circuit. A year on, fest organizers know they have a big job on their hands to live up to expectations.

This year’s total prize kitty for the Black Pearl awards will be more than $1 million — up from last year’s $675,000. The unlimited production grant for the best feature film remains in place; however, the competition has now been expanded to any filmmaker from around the world. This time round, the grant will be awarded to the producer, rather than the helmer, of the winning project.

Other highlights at this year’s festival include a retrospective of 60 years of films made about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a research group looking at the industry trends across the Arab world, which aims to produce the most extensive contemporary study of Arab cinema across North Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and the Gulf ever conducted.

“We want to build on the success of the first year, so we’ve doubled everything,” says fest exec director Nashwa Al-Ruwaini. “It is very challenging, especially now that the festival has expanded to 10 days. We’re still moving to establish a proper film industry in the U.A.E.”

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