Thursday, October 11, 2007

Abu Dhabi launches first film festival: Hopes to become Hollywood of the Gulf

Abu Dhabi launches its first film festival and fund this month in a bid to grow a movie industry in a Gulf region often seen as a cultural desert and where films are often heavily censored. Running from October 14-19, the Middle East International Film Festival aims to encourage home-grown talent and emerging film makers both with cash and the Black Pearl Awards trophies. [...]

The festival is the latest in a series of projects Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, hopes will mark it out as the cultural heart of the region competing with Egypt, which celebrates 100 years of Arab cinema this year. The Gulf has produced few films of world repute and cinemas are banned in the conservative Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia, cutting film makers off from their biggest audience. Problems are compounded by the censorship of movies in the Gulf.

However, organizers say the festival films will not be censored. [...] Several films dealing with sensitive issues will be shown. They include Egyptian documentary "Salata Baladi", or Local Salad, which looks at the prickly issue of interreligious marriage and is partly shot in Israel. Also showing is Brian De Palma's "Redacted", which recreates the real-life rape and murder of a teenage Iraqi girl by U.S. troops, and shocked audiences at the Venice festival last month. The festival will show a range of Hollywood, Bollywood and Arab films, and the Black Pearl Awards will go to fiction, documentary and short films selected by a jury. The festival will showcase Arab film in its Middle East Spotlight section, and includes a section dedicated to Arab female directors. Also on is a retrospective of Gulf films including the region's first feature film, "The Cruel Sea" by Kuwaiti Director Khalid al-Siddiq, made in 1972. To support homegrown talent, the Abu Dhabi Media Company will sponsor a $100,000 cash prize for Emirati film-makers and the festival will give the first ever screening for a UAE feature film; "Jumaa and the Sea" by Hany al-Shaibany.

Source: (Saudi owned, based in Dubai), October 10, 2007