Filmmaker turned festival director talks about life in the spotlight
It’s all change at the top at this year’s sixth Abu Dhabi Film Festival as Emirati Ali Al Jabri leads from the top.
No stranger to film, Al Jabri started acting in 1988 and has worked under respected directors including Jawad Al Asadi and Ouni Karroumi. A trained professional actor for both stage and screen, in 2001 he made a transition into short films and is probably best remembered for his roles in Emirati feature films The Circle and Sea Shadow by Nawaf Al-Janahi.
Al Jabri makes the move to Director of ADFF having spent more than 10 years deeply rooted in the Emirates Film Compettion — a segment of ADFF to support and nuture local talent.
In between juggling film schedules, confirming celebrity attendees and launching what promises to be the “biggest festival yet”, tabloid! managed 10 minutes with the man of the moment.
Q. How does it feel to be at the helm of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival?
A. I cannot explain my excitement to be honest with you. It is an honour and I am very much looking forward to the challenges it will bring. But one hand cannot clap without the other so I will not be alone. I have a great team supporting me from the volunteers right up to the programmers. It’s a professional team and one I have every faith in.
Q. As the first UAE national to direct the festival what are you hoping to bring?
A. The festival will retain an international feel but we want to develop the Arab and Emirati talent and showcase it on the biggest platform possible. I want to inspire young Emirati film makers so they can see the media and entertainment industry as a viable career path.
Q. How have you prepared for the progression from the Emirates Film Competition to this position at ADFF?
A. It feels like a natural progression for me. The festival has been built on solid ground. It has a strong formula already in place and now we plan to take that further and build on all the previous years of success. I have a background in film which I can use to bring the festival to new levels. Abu Dhabi now has international respect. The city was already on the financial map and now ADFF has helped position it firmly on the cultural map. We are positioned along side other major festivals in the world.
Q. Do you plan to bring some Bollywood films to the festival in the coming years?
A. There are many issues with Indian cinema - the dates of release, the cost of premiere screening and piracy problems - which make it difficult for us to secure Indian films. But it is something we will work on in the future. This year we have the legendary Shabana Azmi, an Indian actress with more than 100 credits to her name, on the jury and will welcome Mammootty to the red carpet for opening night.
Q. The films or the stars — which are more important?
A. The stars who walk the red carpet help raise the profile of your festival but it’s the films which are the substance. We always have big stars and names in attendance and we’re keen to keep welcoming that talent.
By Kelly Crane