The Dubai Intl. Film Festival from its outset has always focused on doing “anything we can to help promote Arab cinema all over the world,” says the fest’s managing director Shivani Pandya. That means outreach during awards season.
This year, DIFF upped its Oscar game after forming a selection committee approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, making the UAE eligible to submit a film for the foreign-language Oscar.
In the end the country did not do so because pickings among locally released Emirati features were too slim.
Pandya and Dubai’s top brass began establishing a rapport with the Academy in 2013 and have strengthened ties since then, hosting former AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs at the fest last year. For the upcoming edition the fest has booked Isaacs’ successor, John Bailey, to make the trek and hold several panels.
Last year DIFF began building bridges with the Golden Globes, presenting two Arabic films for consideration in the foreign-language film category. The fest renewed efforts with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. this year by promoting Egyptian political thriller “The Preacher” (“Mawlana”), by veteran helmer Magdi Ahmed Ali, and Lebanese drama “Tramontane,” a first feature by Vatche Boulghourjian for Globes consideration.
“We’ve strategically been speaking to various organizations,” says Pandya, who has also forged close ties with Britain’s BAFTA Awards; the British Film Institute recently selected three Arab features for the BFI London Film Festival. “All we are trying to do is help Arab films get recognition.”
Last year, Jordanian film “Theeb” became the first Arab film to win a BAFTA. “Paradise Now,” by Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, is the only Arab pic to have won a Golden Globe, in 2006.