×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Abu Dhabi Festival Fosters Filmmaking in Arab Industry

For its eighth edition, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival is boldly looking to bolster its standing as driver of the Gulf region’s still embryonic but increasingly vibrant film industry.

Fest’s opening film — Emirati director Ali Mostafa’s hotly anticipated pan-Arab road movie “From A to B,” about three Western-educated Arab youths who travel from Abu Dhabi to Beirut to mourn a deceased friend — heralds this ambition.

Co-produced by Twofour54, the media hub behind the fest, and film and TV outfit Image Nation, “A to B” marks the first time Abu Dhabi, now at its eighth edition, opens with a pic by an Emirati helmer. More significantly, “It’s by an Emirati filmmaker who goes out of the UAE and the Gulf and decides to make a 100% Arab film,” says fest director Ali Al Jabri, and in doing so, “makes a Western-style road movie with the Arab world in it.”

In its overarching mission to foster filmmaking in a region where movies are not traditionally part of the culture, the Abu Dhabi fest strives to showcase the best fresh Arab pics available alongside a selection of cherry-picked international titles and crowd-pleasers, such as its closer, Disney’s “Big Hero 6,” launching Nov. 1 in the Middle East, a week after its world preem at the Tokyo fest.

Sandwiched in between is a mix that balances less accessible and more audience-friendly titles in a de-facto distillation of the festival season that is coming to a close. Having a late October slot allows Abu Dhabi in some cases to “exact revenge,” as programming director Teresa Cavina puts it, by selecting pics that may have unfairly gotten a bad rap at their fest bows, or that may just work better when screened in an Arab context.

Case in point: French-Algerian helmer Rachid Bouchareb’s New Mexico-set “Two Men in Town,” about a Muslim ex-con (Forest Whitaker) who befriends his parole officer (Brenda Blethyn). Cavina claims this pic was “mistreated in Berlin” but will instead have special resonance in Abu Dhabi since the script, written with Algerian author Mohammed Moulessehoul, is “about the Arab world and what makes a man become a terrorist.”

Several films are among selected international titles that have “a common thread of socially significant themes,” Cavina says. These include Chinese helmer Diao Yinan’s cutting-edge noir “Black Coal, Thin Ice,” top winner in Berlin; Turkish helmer Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Winter Sleep,” which scooped the Cannes Palme d’Or earlier this year; Mauritanian helmer Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” about the Mali town’s occupation by militant Islamic rebels that Cavina and others think was unjustly overlooked at Cannes; and Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani’s “99 Homes,” which made a splash in Venice and is partly financed by Image Nation.

The Arab selection comprises first-time Jordanian helmer Naji Abu Nowar’s Bedouin Western “Theeb,” shot in the Jordanian desert with real Bedouins, which took the director prize in Venice’s Horizons section; 3D docu “Iraqi Odyssey,” by the Swiss-Iraqi director Samir, depicting the plight of the helmer’s family; Palestinian director Amer Al Shomali and Canadian director Paul Cowan’s docu “The Wanted 18,” about how 18 cows pasturing on a Palestinian collective farm became a security threat to Israel; and Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab’s drama “The Valley” about man who loses his memory and is held hostage. All these films are supported by Abu Dhabi’s Sanad film fund.

“The festival is the entire Abu Dhabi film system’s connection to the world,” says Al Jabri. “We are hoping to get Middle East distributors more involved — to build an audience here for films that aren’t just Hollywood or Bollywood fare.”

More Biz

  • Sub Pop Cofounder Jonathan Poneman Talks

    Sub Pop Cofounder Jonathan Poneman Talks Legacy and Lifetime Achievement Award

    In its early days, Sub Pop seemed like one of the last record companies on earth that would survive, let alone remain vital, for more than 30 years. They brought Nirvana and Soundgarden to the world, but seemed destined to be forever typecast as the ground zero of grunge, a rock genre that shook the [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Rejects ATA Offer, Seeks Individual Talks With 9 Top Agencies

    The Writers Guild of America has called off negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents in favor of pursuing individual talks with nine top agencies as it enforces a total ban on packaging fees and affiliated production for agents representing guild members. WGA West president David Goodman announced the guild’s decision to reject the ATA’s [...]

  • Harry Ponsonby and Diane Kamin

    Hollywood’s National Research Group Expands Into Asia (EXCLUSIVE)

    Media research and testing firm National Research Group is this month to open its first office in Asia. The new unit will be located in Singapore and eventually operate across a widely-defined version of Asia Pacific that includes mainland China, Japan and India. Best known for its behind the scenes role in pre-release testing of [...]

  • Jim Gosnell

    APA Claims Texts Were Fabricated in Lurid Sex Harassment Suit

    A former assistant at APA filed a lurid sexual harassment complaint on Wednesday alleging that a partner at the firm sent her graphic text messages and threatened to have her fired when she refused his advances. The assistant, identified in the suit only as Jane Doe, alleges that top management fostered a “toxic, pervasive and [...]

  • Logic Launches BobbyBoy Records as Joint

    Logic Launches BobbyBoy Records as Joint Venture With Def Jam

    Grammy-nominated rapper Logic — aka Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, aka Bobby Hall —has announced a joint venture with Def Jam Recordings for his new label, BobbyBoy Records, which was formerly known as Elysium Records. The imprint’s initial artist roster is comprised of singer-songwriter John Lindahl, Damian Lemar Hudson (featured on “Black Spiderman,” from Logic’s RIAA platinum 2017 album, “Everybody”); Big Lenbo (featured on two previous Logic albums); [...]

  • Shari Redstone Joe Ianniello

    Shari Redstone, Joe Ianniello in Spotlight as CBS and Viacom Pursue Merger Talks Again

    As CBS Corp. nears a formal acquisition offer for Viacom, the actions of two key players — controlling shareholder Shari Redstone and acting CBS CEO Joe Ianniello — will be closely watched in the coming weeks. Redstone’s moves are under scrutiny because of the potential for litigation surrounding a deal that some have criticized as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content