Dubai Film Festival Reinstates Dubai Film Connection Co-Production Mart

In the latest twist in the ever-changing Middle East film fest scene, the Dubai Film Festival has backpedalled on its recent decision to scrap the Dubai Film Connection, which is the only bona-fide co-production platform in the Middle East.

So, after skipping an edition last year, the Dubai Film Connection, which started in 2007, will return to the Dubai Film Market, organizers announced.

The announcement follows recent news of the shocking shuttering of the nearby Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Abu Dhabi’s closure will certainly boost Dubai’s role as a springboard for Arab Cinema, and may also strengthen the Cairo Film Festival, which is being relaunched.

“We’re very excited to reinstate the Dubai Film Connection. The filmmakers and industry professionals wanted it back, and we listened,” said DIFF managing director Shivani Pandya in a statement.

“By offering the right networking and support opportunities, the DFC opens doors for Arab talent to promote and develop their film projects, and it becomes a platform for producers and funds to find the best Arab projects ready for production,” she added.

The statement did not specify whether new execs will be brought on board to run the Dubai Film Connection. The event’s market side is managed by Dubai Film Market manager Samr Al Marzooqi.

Industry expert Jane Williams, who set up the Dubai fest’s Industry Office in 2009 and then grew the Dubai mart into the world’s main mart for Arab cinema, and also a prime platform for Asian and African pics, left last year when Dubai Film Connection was scrapped. The Dubai mart’s onetime chief, Pascal Diot, also left at that time.

Dubai recently zeroed in on local distribution woes for Arab pics by forging a deal with some of the region’s biggest distributors, including Gulf Film, Empire, Front Row and Vox, under which they will release at least one locally produced film unspooling at the fest.

Also, reflecting a burst of promising new Arab productions at the Cannes market, Dubai and Cannes teamed this year on an Arab pics-in-post showcase which features five titles, comprising Jordanian first-timer Rifqi Assaf’s VW minibus road movie “The Curve,” co-produced by Rula Nasser’s Imaginarium Films talent hub, and Film Clinic. Also selected for the “Dubai Film Market Goes to Cannes” showcase is “Eclipse” (aka “Full Moon Night”), a drama about a disintegrating marriage, backed by Habib Attia’s Cinetelefilms, one of Tunisia’s top indie production shingles and directed by first-timer Fares Nanaa.

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