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New name for Middle East fest

Festival now Abu Dhabi Film fest, launches new fund

In a move that indicates Abu Dhabi’s rising prominence as a global media and entertainment brand, the Middle East Film Festival has been renamed the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and launched a $500,000 fund for Arab filmmakers.

The fund, dubbed Sanad, after the Arabic word for support, will provide development grants of up to $20,000 and post-production grants of up to $60,000 for features and docs by filmmakers from the Arab world. Applications for the fund are open until July 15.

“There’s an amazing amount of untapped and unrecognized creative potential in the Arab world and these grants are an important building block in the creation of a vibrant and viable cinema here, especially since they come with the kind of international opportunities and support we can offer,” said fest topper Peter Scarlet.

The Middle East Film Festival, held each October, was launched in 2007, two years after the launch of the Dubai Film Festival, with the aim of creating a vibrant film culture throughout the region.

In the years since, Abu Dhabi has aggressively moved into other forms of media and entertainment, launching is own media zone, twofour54, which has become the regional hub for CNN, Comedy Central and Cartoon Network, while its state-owned media company’s $1 billion film fund, Imagenation Abu Dhabi, has tied up with Hollywood players Participant, Hyde Park and National Geographic.

“It’s common practice for major international film festivals to name themselves after the town in which their principal screenings take place,” Scarlet said. “We’re happy and proud to be based in Abu Dhabi, so why not say so?”

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