Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has announced that the 11th edition of the festival will run from December 10th through to the 17th, 2014.
Over the past 10 years, each area of the festival has demonstrated astonishing growth with the decennial edition DIFF’s most successful year to date, with attendance growing by 150% since the inaugural edition in 2004.
DIFF’s Friends of the Festival (FOTF) philanthropic programme, designed to engage the UAE’s cinephiles recorded a 60% increase in the number of film enthusiasts signing up for packages that included exclusive access to the festival’s events and films.
As DIFF’s customer survey reports, 96.5% of audiences were overall satisfied with their experience and 97.8% of festival goers plan to attend again this year. The Dubai Film Market, the leading industry platform for Arab cinema and business centre of the Festival, continued to provide a high level of service for the filmmakers, buyers, sellers and distributors in attendance; in addition, the programme of events reflected a wide area of film craft and industry throughout the week which resulted in 97.5 % of industry guests overall satisfied with the event.
Befitting a celebration of ten years of dedication to Arab cinema, the festival opened with Oscar nominee Omar, by Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad which was supported by DIFF’s Enjaaz post-production grants programme. On winning the Best Director at the prestigious Muhr Awards, Abu-Assad reflected on returning to DIFF and being awarded the top prize: “I’m speechless. You don’t believe how good you will feel when you are among your people, the family that raised you and recognise you as the best, believe me it’s the best recognition.”
Nominated for a total of 36 Oscars, DIFF’s 10th edition line-up was widely considered to be the strongest film programme to date showcasing some of the highest profile titles of the year including 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, The Great Beauty, Nebraska, The Past, Frozen, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Ilo Ilo and Inside Llewyn Davis.
David O Russell, Director of DIFF’s closing night film American Hustle, nominated for 10 Oscars and winner of three Golden Globes, said about his experience in Dubai: “It’s a very exciting place that feels like it’s going to get bigger and bigger. I’ve never been here before and it feels like what I would call a temple of cinema, where cinema is made special and it’s a real privilege to be here.”
During the Festival, the visiting delegation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that DIFF has qualified as a Festival that can contribute short films for Oscar consideration.
The qualification will apply to the Muhr Arab and Muhr Asia Africa shorts competitions, making the festival the first from the Arab world to be on the list. Winning films from last year’s festival can qualify for the Academy’s 2015 competition.
Former Academy President Sid Ganis said: “The Dubai International Film Festival is sensational; I’m having an enlightening time seeing films, meeting filmmakers and being in Dubai has been a really good experience. We think DIFF is significant and this is an important festival. If you’re a short filmmaker and win an award in Dubai, you qualify, which is very good news for filmmakers in the region.”
Festival Chairman Abdulhamid Juma expanded on the 10th edition of the DIFF: “The vision has always been to bring an exciting selection of films that represent perspectives and cultures from around the world to the diverse population in the UAE. This year we presented our strongest film programme to date, designed to give audiences more opportunities to take part in the festival and experience all it has to offer. We presented over 100 films from both new and established filmmakers here in the Arab world, reaffirming the past decade’s progress in raising the profile of Arab cinema on the world stage.”
In addition to the focus on audiences, he pointed out that the festival has established a comprehensive series of initiatives to really develop the industry side and address the needs of regional filmmakers, many of whom struggled previously to complete their projects due to lack of funding.
The Dubai Film Market, DIFF’s platform for its industry initiatives, saw the most records broken this year, a testament to its prominence in the regional and international industries.
He said: “As part of nurturing Arab cinema, we established a meeting place for film professionals–executives, filmmakers, writers, and actors from around the world. The Dubai Film Market was buzzing with meetings, seminars and networking events, making it the strongest yet.”
The Dubai Film Connection, a project market that pairs regional filmmakers with international production and funding bodies, saw over 500 meetings in three days for its 16 projects. Meanwhile, over 1800 people attended the Market’s Forum sessions, which included highlight sessions from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that involved panel discussions with members of the Academy titled “Beyond the Oscars” and “An Academy Conversation on Directing”.
Throughout the year, DIFF boosted its partnerships to enhance opportunities for filmmakers which resulted in new awards with financial benefits being presented during the Festival, including the Front Row KNCC Award, the CNC Award and the New Century Filmmaker Award.
DIFF’s Cinetech, a digital library that allows subscribers sales agents, distributors and other purchasers to view over 350 of the festival’s offerings, is expected to generate sales for many of the titles in the coming weeks. Dubai Film Market’s exhibitor stands saw a 460% increase with companies from around the world, taking advantage of the excellent opportunities to interact with industry leaders, view their products and network with major players in the region and beyond.
Academy Award winner and IWC Friend of the Brand, Cate Blanchett, presented the IWC Filmmaker Award to Waleed Al Shehhi, for his work Dolphins. Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen and DIFF collaborated for the 2nd consecutive year to give talented filmmakers of the region the opportunity to win $100,000 cash prize.
“DIFF is really establishing itself as the gateway to the Middle East and Asia with so filmmakers and actors represented here,” said Cate Blanchett. “The energy around the IWC Filmmaker Award prize has even grown within 12 months, the four finalists are such diverse voices and we were saying we would like to see them all made. This award is the first step for a filmmaker and a vote of confidence to search for the rest of their budgets.”
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