Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arab Cinema Finds an Niche in Western Film Festivals

In honor of Egyptian courage and expression of freedom, the International Cannes Film Festival will host Egypt film and filmmakers at the 64th International Film Festival as the first ever guest country at the Cannes IFF, May 11 - 22, 2011.

The Festival will also honor late Egyptian directing legend Youssef Chahine and screen 18 Jours (18 DAYS), as well as a grouping of short films by several Egyptian directors filmed during the nation's January 25th revolution. Profits from the films will go toward political and public education programs in rural Egypt. O.K., I'm down with the funds for rural public education programs but a bit skeptical about the motives of political education. That is very vague.

The third Arab Film Festival Berlin, organized by Cinemaiat - Friends of the Arabic Cinematheque Association, will be held from November 2 to 10 this year. The festival's main program will present recent works by Arab filmmakers, and this year's special focus section on humor will present films of varied lengths and production dates.

Feature films, documentaries and shorts made in the last three years are eligible for Berlin, as long as they are directed or produced by an Arab filmmaker/production company, or present an issue closely connected to the Arab world. The submission deadline is June 30, 2011.

The Fourth Gulf Film Festival (GFF) at Dubai, drew to a close April 20th and ended on a high note. There was a week-long showcase of 153 films from 31 countries screened free to audiences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Arabian peninsula.

GFF 2011 drew more than 1,400 submissions from 98 countries for its fourth edition, recorded a 11 per cent growth in audience compared with its 2010 edition, highlights the growing popularity of the festival and emerging and established Gulf filmmakers among local and regional audiences.

The 2011 edition also saw one of the strongest Gulf turnouts, including the highest-ever submissions from the UAE and Qatar, and significant representation from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Iraq. In all, the 2011 line-up included 59 world premieres, 13 international premieres, 15 Middle East premieres and 15 Gulf Coast premieres.

The GFF has no graphic I can use with this post, so I used the graphic from the other film festival held in Dubai, the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). The DIFF is more open to Westerners than the GFF. This year's DIFF edition, along with Enjazz Film Market, will be held December 7 - 14. Please click the title of this post for more information.

One of the reasons Arab cinema has made monumental strides in quality films is the filmmakers in the Gulf region now have access to production funds for five short films annually, following a new collaboration between the Gulf Film Festival and the Dubai Film Market's Enjaaz program, that aims to support filmmakers from the Arab world.

This new Enjaaz fund offers Gulf-based filmmakers up to $50,000 per project, complementing the existing funding of up to $100,000 per project offered every year by Enjaaz to features and documentaries in the post-production phase. The first application cycle for the fund closes June 1.

Arabic film festivals also offer huge monetary prizes to film festival winners, anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 per win. A glass or gold plated statue doesn't cut it with these guys. The statue must be in pure gold studded with diamonds, rubies and/or sapphires.

So, whoa up there you Americans, Brits, or European Union members. I suggest you do not pack your bags for these film festivals just yet. Many of these splendorous affairs are not open to you as competitors or, perhaps, as visitors. Some are by invitation only. Click the title of this post for more on these festivals.

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