The number of Arab film festivals around the world is on the rise. They screen works that confront stereotypes with authentic stories and images, while offering a deeper understanding of the region and its people – culturally, historically, politically and economically. We take a look at some of the most important fests and the services they offer to filmmakers.
Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF)
next edition: December 7 – 14, 2016
The largest and longest running international film festival in the Gulf, DIFF gives pride of place to its Arab and Emirati competitions for features, documentaries and shorts. In addition, the section “Arabian Nights” provides a home for films by Arab helmers, those co-produced in Arab countries and those on Arab world themes. For filmmaker support, the Dubai Film Market (DFM) offers a unique platform that raises the visibility of Arab cinema in the region and at an international level. Since its inception, the DFM has supported over 270 projects. Among its components are the co-production market Dubai Film Connection, post-production financial support through Enjaaz and the Dubai Distribution Program.
Qumra and Ajyal Youth Film Festival
The Doha Film Institute sponsors Qumra, an initiative that provides mentorship, nurturing, and hands-on development for filmmakers from Qatar and around the world, through a select international gathering of creative film professionals to contribute to the development of emerging voices in cinema, with a special focus on first and second-time filmmakers, alongside a series of screenings for Doha audiences featuring films by international masters and recipients of support from the Institute. They also run the Ajyal Youth Film Festival.
Cairo International Film Festival
next edition: November 15 – 24, 2016
The oldest cultural event in Africa and the Middle East, Cairo has an “A” status from the International Federation of Film Producers Associations. A “Horizons of New Arab Cinema,” including new Egyptian cinema, is organized by the Egyptian Filmmakers Syndicate as a parallel section.
Les Journées Cinematographiques de Carthage
next edition: October 28 – November 5, 2016
A showcase for films from Northern and Southern Africa. For 25 years it was a biannual event alternating with FESPACO in Ouagadougo, Burkina Faso, but now runs annually. The competitive Takmil workshop allocates post-production grants.
Marrakech Film Festival
next edition: December 2016
This glossy international festival founded by Morocco’s King and programmed by France-based Le Public Systeme Cinema spotlights some new Moroccan films and other titles from the Arab world.
Next edition: February, 2017
This celebration of Pan-African cinema and cinema of the African diaspora also includes features, shorts and documentaries from Arabic-speaking North Africa.
Malmo Arab Festival
next edition: September 30 – October 5, 2016
The largest film festival on Arab cinema outside the Arab world, screening around 120 features, short and documentaries. To promote co-productions between Scandinavia and the Arab world, their market forum brings together producers, financiers and film professionals for seminars, pitching and networking. They also offer development and post-production grants. Part of their program travels to Stockholm, Gothenburg and Umeå. The distribution arm brings Arabic titles to Swedish theaters, and, starting from 2017, will distribute to VOD services as well as television. Festival director Josef Kullengård says, “The foundation of the whole organization promotes international collaborations and diversity in every section of the film industry – with screenings and distributions, as well as with production.”
ALFILM – Arab Film Festival Berlin
next edition: April 2017
Along with films from well-known film-producing countries, ALFILM discovers emerging filmmakers and accesses new narratives as well as interrelations and challenges. Artistic director Fadi Abdelnour
says, “The Festival came about as a reaction to the absence and/or misrepresentation of Arabic culture in the Berliner/German public space and discourse.”
Middle East Now
next edition: April 2017
Founded in 2010 and based in Florence, it offers film, visual arts, photography, contemporary culture, food and events from the Middle East and North Africa. Co-founder Lisa Chiari says, “It was time to show a different Middle East from what we normally see through the news on TV and newspapers, most of the time focusing only on wars, religious fundamentalism and violence. Our statement is to tell what is the real Middle East, beyond stereotypes and prejudices”
Arab Film Days
next edition: April 2017
A program of Oslo’s larger festival Films From The South, Arab Film Days uses screenings, debates and director conversations to pose questions from how to help refugees to whether peace can start on the ground in Syria.
Arab Film Festival Australia
next edition: July – August 2016
Taking place in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, and with the 2016 edition, moving west to Perth, the Arab Film Festival Australia addresses contemporary misrepresentations of Arab peoples and cultures by reflecting the complexity and diversity of Arab experiences, and providing a critical space presenting alternative representations of Arab subjects, cultures and narratives on screen.
Arab Film Festival San Francisco
next edition: October 7 – 16, 2016
Founded in 1996, it is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the U.S. Festival director Serge Bakalian says, “The purpose of our festival is two-fold: 1) to share the art and culture of the Arab world with a western audience that generally only knows about these societies through the media and stereotypical tropes. 2) To create a much needed bridge of understanding between the two worlds and hopefully have people recognize that they are more alike than different.” He adds, “One of our current projects is to expand our presence in Los Angeles. This year we are forming important partnerships to add more industry focus to our already rich programming, which includes an industry-only screening with the Creative Artists Agency.”
Arabian Sights Film Festival Washington, DC
Next edition: October 2016
Founded in 1996 by FilmFest DC Deputy Director Shirin Ghareeb, who notes, “The Arab world is not only important because of its strategic position and political and economic importance, but more significantly it is an area of rich, vibrant and diverse cultures which has been the birthplace of human civilization.”