Arab Film Funders Step Up Collaborative Efforts in Abu Dhabi

Gulf film funds are increasingly working in concert

Though it’s really tough for directors in the Gulf and the Arab world at large to get their movies made, efforts to build a film industry in the region are gradually becoming more collective and co-ordinated, execs from the top film entities these filmmakers can turn to agreed during the Abu Dhabi Film Festival’s “Show Me the Money” panel on Friday.

Regarding the money, Image Nation creative executive Jason Mirch said the Abu Dhabi-based production company — which co-produces Hollywood movies and also shepherds local product — revealed that according to their calculations for an Emirati film to have reasonable prospects for a return on investment it “would have to be made for under $250,000.”

That does not seem such a small sum if you consider that Rotterdam-based Hubert Bals Fund has no limits on how low the budget of a film must be in order to obtain funding from them and rarely supports films budgeted at over $1 million, its exec Bianca Taal said.

Samr Al Marzooqi, head of the Dubai fest’s Enjaaz fund, noted that fund provides up to a handsome $100,000 in post-production coin to up to 15 projects a year.

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Creatively, the models are local stories that can resonate. Iranian director Ashgar Farhadi’s foreign-language Oscar-winner “A Separation” and, closer to home, Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadja,” which scored more than 500,000 admissions in France, Mirch pointed out.

Image Nation is “solely geared towards building a base for filmmaking in Abu Dhabi and making Abu Dhabi a regional hub,” Mirch underscored.

Boarding Hollywood movies, such as fest opener “Life of Crime,” produced by Ashok Armitraj’s Hyde Park, just permits Image Nation to accumulate potential profit revenues to finance that effort and also “allows us to send young aspiring Emirati filmmakers to the sets and gain a level of experience.”

Back to the spirit of collaboration that was in the air, Doha Film Institute grants manager Khalil Benkirane proposed that Gulf funds connected to film fests lift any restrictions regarding where films that tap into their support should launch from.

“If we support a film in Doha we should not expect it to be shown in Doha first, and vice-versa. We are all just here to support the filmmakers,” Benkirane said.

Intishal Al Timimi, head of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival’s Sanad fund, noted that this was the first time these major MENA region funding players convened on a stage. And the meet prompted a call from fest programmer Teresa Cavina for a more organic collaboration. Everyone seemed to welcome it.

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