DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A copious contingent of film industry executives from the Nordic region, including producers, directors and representatives from national film institutions, gathered at the Dubai Film Market for three intense days, resulting in meetings with potential partners in Arab countries and some distribution deals for Scandinavian films.
The announcement that Sørfond – the Norwegian South Film Fund – is forging a strategic partnership with the Dubai Film Connection (DFC) reinforced that rapport.
The DFC, which is the co-production platform of the Dubai fest, brings international and Arab film professionals together to collaborate on approximately 10 selected projects each year.
Sørfond, which has been attending the DFC for the past four years, is providing a new DFC award starting this year which will provide a selected project the opportunity to pitch at the Sørfond Pitching Forum in Oslo in 2017. The main objective of Sørfond is to stimulate production of films in developing countries where they can be impeded by political or economic causes and to increase the Norwegian film industry’s international collaborations.
This year’s winning project was “A Girl Made of Dust,” a drama about a family living in a village near Beirut during the 1980s Lebanese civil war. “Girl” is the second feature by Israeli-Arab actress Hiam Abbass (pictured) whose first film was “Inheritance.” The nod was received by Lebanese producer Sabine Sidawi.
The pitching forum is held during the Films from the South Festival in Oslo. It gives international producers from developing countries a chance to present their projects to potential Norwegian co-producers, with the aim of entering into a co-production agreement and applying for further Sørfond support.
“Since its first round of grants in 2012, Sørfond has become an increasingly important player in the tough market of co-financing film productions beyond the western hemisphere,” said Lasse Skagen, artistic director of Sørfond, in a statement. “It is obvious that Dubai International Film Festival and the Dubai Film Connection has become the most important meeting place for Arab filmmakers to both present new projects and to screen their finished films. And for Sørfond we are very grateful to become an official partner with this important player in the international film industry.”
Players from both the Arab regions and the Scandinavian countries agreed that this year’s Dubai Film Market’s Nordic initiative represented an important first step towards future collaborations.
“The film institute representatives have gotten a much clearer picture of the production and distribution environment in the MENA region,” said Swedish Film Institute Festivals Manager Petter Mattson.
Distribution is still a difficult area, especially considering the potential audience of nearly 200,000 Arabic-speaking people in Sweden. While films from the Nordic countries can face content censorship in the MENA region, films from the Arab world currently end up in art house cinemas in Scandinavia. However “in many cases the people speaking Arabic aren’t [even] aware of these cinemas,” says Mattsson. In the long run this has to do with integration, and is thus a political matter. But it is also a matter of distribution platforms. “If the films won’t reach their primary audience via traditional theatrical distribution, are there alternative ways to get them seen?”