Against the backdrop of a region in flux, the fourth edition of the Gulf Film Festival will open Thursday, April 14, 2011 in Dubai, showcasing the contemporary work of seasoned and emerging filmmakers from the length and breadth of the Arabian Peninsula and around the world. In all, the Festival will screen 153 films from 31 nations in its official screening programme, including more than 110 from the Gulf nations, Iraq and Yemen.
The Festival, held 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 at 7 pm at Dubai Festival City with a glittering red carpet gala ceremony and the world’s first screening of brand-new Iraqi drama Child of Iraq.
At the opening ceremony, GFF 2011 will honour three individuals who have contributed to the growth and evolution of Arab cinema: Emirati actress Mariam Sultan, Saudi director/producer Mohammad F. Gazzaz, and Kuwaiti producer/director Mohammad Al-Sanousi.
Festival Chairman Abdulhamid Juma said: “The Gulf Film Festival is unique in the world as the only platform where filmmakers from the Gulf nations, Iraq and Yemen can share what’s on their minds and their hearts with the rest of the world in an open setting. There has never been a more important time for this, and we are looking forward to a wonderful, thought-provoking week.”
Festival Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said the Festival’s key measure of success lies in the growing number of quality films from around the region. This year’s programme features considerable participation from the Gulf, including 45 films from the UAE alone, 23 from Iraq, 12 from Saudi Arabia, 11 from Kuwait; eight from Qatar; seven from Oman; and two from Bahrain.
“Many films get made in this region because of the Gulf Film Festival – I believe this is our most valuable contribution, giving the people of our region a voice. The Festival is also a creative commons, and an important tool for national and regional dialogue, for expatriates and nationals, residents and visitors to better understand our region and its people,” he said. “We welcome the UAE community to make the most of this rare event.”
In addition, the Gulf Film Festival grooms the region’s student, emerging and professional talent by giving them opportunities to learn, role models to emulate and a platform to shine, he added.
The core of the Festival are its three competitions: 64 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; and 30 films have been short-listed in the Gulf Competition – Students category. The Festival’s first International Shorts competition includes 14 films from eight countries. All told, the competition prizes offer more than half a million dirhams in prize money.
This year’s Gulf Competition jury comprises veteran Egyptian filmmaker Magdy Ahmed Aly, with Emirati poet and author Ahmed Rashed Thani, and Iraqi filmmaker Kais Al-Zubaidi. The international short film competition committee will be headed by Montserrat Guiu Valls, Managing Director of the Festival de Cine de Huesca, with Bahraini filmmaker Bassam Al-Thawadi and Lebanese film critic Hauvick Habechian as members.
Over the next seven days, the Festival will also screen a selection of contemporary cinema from around the world free to the public. The 2011 line-up includes 59 world premieres, 13 international premieres, 15 Middle East premieres, 15 GCC premieres and 10 UAE premieres and spans every genre from animation and adventure to horror and romance.
The Gulf Film Festival box office is open from 10.30 am to 10 pm daily at the Grand Cinemas Dubai Festival City. All patrons are welcome to up to two tickets per person on a first-come, first-served basis. The full schedule  of films is also available online.
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.