2012 looks like a transition year for Abu Dhabi, which hit its stride under well-respected industry vet Peter Scarlet and boasted both an Arab and international competition with generous prizes. After being folded into the government-backed media hub Twofour54 earlier this year, changes are afoot. In early August, local thesp Ali Al-Jabri, former coordinator of the Emirates film competition, was named fest director following Scarlet’s departure. Beyond the fact that Isabella Rossellini will head the narrative competition jury no details about this fifth edition are available so far. Twofour54 also temporarily shuttered the Sanad fund for filmmakers from the Arab world, leaving bewildered grantees sans expected development counseling and post-production feedback.
The flagship of the Tunisian art scene drawing some 250,000 viewers in 10 days, Carthage is a biennial event championing Arab and African cinema, which alternates with Fespaco in Burkina Faso. The 24th session will be the first since the Jasmine Revolution jump-started the Arab Spring. Carthage’s Souk of Films will provide opportunities for young filmmakers from the region, including project workshops, speed dating with producers and Ecrans d’a venir (Screens of the Future). La rue fait son cinema will literally take filmmaking to the streets with directors offering crash courses along the rue Bourguiba, home to the fest theaters.
Expanding to an eight-day event and new venues for its fourth edition, Doha Tribeca has also landed on dates that put it into direct conflict with the Middle East and North African region’s oldest festival, Carthage. Fest recently tapped Issa M. Al Mohannadi as vice chair. Doha’s Arab film competitions for feature narrative, docu and short offer significant awards, along with $50,000 going to the aud award winner for feature and docu. Venice opening pic Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” co-produced by the Doha Film Institute, is slated for opening night. Among the program highlights is a celebration of Algeria’s 50 years of independence with a showcase of classic and contemporary films.
Nov. 30-Dec. 8
Under the patronage of King Mohamed VI and programmed by the French events-and-PR company Le Public Systeme Cinema, Marrakech has a reputation for glitz, apparent in the big international names serving on juries, accepting tributes, and just walking the red carpet. Local press and filmmakers may justifiably feel that organizers prioritize the promotion of the Red City as a tourist and foreign production destination rather than championing the native film industry. Following the enormously successful Shah Rukh Khan tribute last year, the 12th edition will celebrate the centenary of Hindi cinema with a 20-strong delegation led by Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan.
Nov. 27-Dec. 6
Cancelled last year in light of security concerns, the Cairo fest was set for reinvention this year, but political infighting appears to be threatening the 35th edition. Although the Ministry of Culture gave the organizing rights to the Cairo Film Festival Institution, headed by former CIFF artistic director, Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, the Egyptian Cinema Writers and Critics Assn. sued in Administrate court for the right to take charge. A court order now demands the Ministry of Culture, which itself is expected to experience a change, to, once again, choose from bids offered by various groups.
Dubai remains the grande dame of Emirati film festivals, continuing its pioneering mandate to develop the local and regional industry while bringing a dazzling array of world cinema — and celebrities — to the hometown crowds. Separate competitions for Arab as well as African and Asian features, docus and shorts yield substantial prizes. Meanwhile, Dubai’s comprehensive script-to-screen industry initiative, the Dubai Film Market, extends co-production, post-production, trade and distribution support, in addition to encouraging the development of a new generation of film journalists. New for 2012: the world’s first Cinematic Innovation Summit, spotlighting upcoming advances in cinematic technology.
Creative spring for femme helmers | Region’s sprocket operas tangled in their own dramas | Half a dozen area fests worth watching