DUBAIThe Dubai Film Festival is boosting its status as a Middle East film industry driver with a trio of funding initiatives, one of which was tubthumped by Cate Blanchett at the event on Tuesday. Blanchett served as jury prexy of the new $100,000 Schaffhausen Filmmaker Award scooped by Iraqi-born, U.K.-based helmer Maysoon Pachachi for her “Nothing Doing in Baghdad,” set in the Iraqi capital in 2006. “Baghdad” will be produced by Kuwait’s Talal Al-Muhanna. In a separate initiative, the fest was the launching pad for a fund for Emirates-based helmers, called Soul of Dubai, financed by the booming city’s Culture and Arts Authority. Three Emirati helmers have been selected to each shoot a medium-length work centered around Dubai’s complex social and multi-cultural fabric and heritage. They are Ali F. Mostafa (“City of Life”), Nayla Al Khaja and Khalid Ali. Their films will screen at the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai in April as a possible prelude to a Dubai-based feature. Also on Tuesday, the privately funded, Beirut-based Arab Fund for Arts and Culture forged a partnership with the Dubai fest by hosting its annual gala dinner during the event, where nine AFAC-supported titles are screening. The closer link up will increase exposure for AFAC-funded films at both the Dubai Filmmart and its Film Connection co-production event.