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More delegates at Abu Dhabi film conference

Regional filmmakers meet global showbiz bigwigs

The fourth Abu Dhabi Film Commission Circle Conference was not only its busiest to date, with more than 600 delegates registered, but also cemented its increasingly significant position in the Arab cinematic world.

Three-day confab, which wraps today, opened with a keynote speech from Quinta Communications topper Tarak Ben Ammar, who used the event as a launchpad to announce distribution deals with Warner Bros. and Universal for $55 million indie Arab pic “Black Gold,” starring Antonio Banderas and Tahar Rahim.

Choosing to announce the news at the confab reflected the Circle’s growing importance.

As delegates bustled around the Intercontinental Hotel, local and regional filmmakers had a chance to brush shoulders with global industryites such as “The Hurt Locker” producer Nicolas Chartier, Rotana Studios prexy Hala Sarhan and “Paranormal Activity” producer Jason Blum.

“Wall Street” producer Edward R. Pressman was in the emirate talking to local and regional filmmakers and delivered the event’s second keynote speech.

“The big thing is that there is much more interaction with Middle Eastern filmmakers and producers,” said David Shepheard, director of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission. “We’ve got more contributions with Middle Eastern panelists than ever before, and they’re far more enthusiastic than we’ve seen in past years. The debates have been more lively and this is exactly the kind of platform we want to give the industry.”

A hot topic for delegates this year was how to develop and nurture a local and regional cinema culture in a region where investors have been quick to spend billions on new hotels and developments but slower to invest in film.

Ben Ammar urged delegates to improve regional collaboration. “We can only succeed if we work together. Great things have been done and are being done in Abu Dhabi, in Doha, in Dubai and other places. Now is the time to connect the dots.”

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