Abdulhamid Juma, Gulf Film Festival Chairman
The fourth edition of the Gulf Film Festival Dubai, the home of bold, experimental and contemporary cinema from the Gulf nations, Iraq and Yemen, will screen 153 films from 31 countries free to the public in Dubai from Thursday (April 14, 2011) – including 114 films that provide a rare and authentic glimpse into the Arabian peninsula.
The festival, which runs from April 14 to 20 at Dubai Festival City, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Majid Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), will open on Thursday night with the powerful Iraqi documentary film Child of Iraq (Barn Af Irak).
The film, by director Ala’A Mohsen, follows his return to his country after 14 years. A coming of age story depicting grief, friendship, and a burning wish to regain one’s lost identity, Child of Iraq will make its world premiere in Dubai.
The fourth edition of the Festival also represents a success for the regional filmmaking community, with robust interest from all nations, and a particularly strong showing from the Arabian Peninsula. Entries from the UAE and Qatar are at their highest ever in the Festival’s history. In all, the 2011 line-up includes 59 world premieres,13 international premieres,15 Middle East premieres, 15 GCC premieres and 10 UAE premieres.
With 45 entries from the UAE by Emirati directors or filmmakers based in the country, GFF 2011 marks the remarkable evolution of a home-grown film industry. There are some 82 entries from the GCC region – 12 from Saudi Arabia, 11 from Kuwait, eight from Qatar, seven from Oman and two from Bahrain.
Gulf Film Festival Chairman Abdulhamid Juma said that in just four years the festival has made tremendous strides in driving the growth of a strong regional film industry. “Filmmakers from the Arab world face several challenges – from socio-political uncertainties to the lack of a strong supporting infrastructure. The Gulf Film Festival has consistently worked to encourage them to break through the barriers and create films that tell the world the Arab story, about our people and social realities, through their authentic perspectives. The strong roster of regional films at GFF marks the successful evolution of a true Gulf-based Arab film industry that has already shown its potential to make strong international inroads.”
Festival Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali added: “The selection of films, especially from the Arab world, is a candid reflection of the contemporary realities of the region. The unique perspectives presented by the filmmakers open new windows of understanding about the people, their aspirations and their outlook for the future. We are honoured to present a strong contingent of young filmmakers who we are confident will further drive the growth of the Arab film industry through their creative approach to filmmaking.”
The Festival’s two flagship competitions – the Gulf Competition for professional filmmakers and the student competition – have also seen a tremendous response. Sixty-four films are included in the Gulf Competition segment for filmmakers from the Gulf region and films about the Arabian Gulf, including 38 shorts, 20 documentaries and six features. An additional 30 films have been short-listed in the Gulf Competition – Students category including 18 in the shorts and 12 in the documentary competition.
Adding to the selection from the Gulf is the festival’s out-of-competition Lights segment, which showcases 16 short films that capture the multifaceted identity of the region.
In addition to the GCC, Iraq and Yemen, the Festival will also screen films from the US, Canada, Brazil, France, Spain, UK, Switzerland, Greece, Denmark, The Netherlands, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, Cameroon and Tunisia. The Festival’s first International Shorts competition includes 14 films from eight countries.
Bringing added international flavour to the festival are the Intersections and Children for Cinema segments. An eclectic line-up of shorts and independent films from across the world, Intersections will showcase 17 films, while the Cinema for Children segment includes nine films.
In addition to the main screenings, the festival’s ‘In Focus’ segment this year spotlights renowned experimental filmmaker Gérard Courant, who holds the world record for the longest film ever made, the 156-hour Cinématon, which will be showcased via video galleries across Dubai Festival City. Festival delegates will also have the opportunity to participate in Cinématon, which has been made over 33 years with short, silent self-portraits of more than 2,347 artists, directors and cinephiles including Jean-Luc Godard, Sergie Bardaghnouf and Youssef Chahine shot in single takes.
In another fitting tribute to the world masters, the festival will host an Abbas Kiarostami retrospective featuring three of his films, Rain, Sea Eggs and Roads of Kiarostami, followed by a public conversation with the world-renowned director. The screenings complement the first-ever master-class of the director in the Gulf region to be attended by 45 filmmakers from the Middle East and around the world. The 10-day Kiarostami master class, the first of its kind in the Gulf region, begins today (April 11) and is being held by the Festival in association with Documentary Voices.
As part of its mandate to identify and nurture young talent in the region, the Festival has also organised a series of free workshops and special events for the region’s film fraternity and student delegates.
The fourth edition of the Gulf Film Festival will be held at the InterContinental Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Grand Cinemas at Dubai Festival City. The festival is supported by Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and is held in association with Dubai Studio City. More details on the festival are available online at www.gulffilmfest.com.