5th Dubai International Film Festival

United Arab Emirates, December 11 - December 18 2008

The jury

Jean Roy (France), Rui Tendinha (Portugal), Latika Padgaonkar (India), Mahmoud Jemni (Tunisia), Mohamed Hussein Bayoumi (Egypt)

Awarded films

Dubai. With 181 films coming from 66 countries, the Dubai International Film Festival has proved with its fifth edition (December 11th-18th) that it has become the key player for the cinema scene in this part of the world. The general audience appreciated the glittering stars of the red carpet featuring, for the opening night, the likes of Oliver Stone, Goldie Hawn, Ben Affleck, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, among others. The market was attended by hundreds of participants from societies and institutions ranging from Arte to the Beijing Jingle Culture Development, from Canal+ to Celluloid Dreams, from Cinecittà Holding to The Hong Kong Trade Development Council, a faraway cry from the attendees of Carthage, Damascus, Marrakech or Cairo in the past few weeks. Galas, parties, panels, forums, round tables and workshops have all been the daily bread of the lucky ones with topics like ‘Getting your film in the regional cinemas’, ‘Cracking the North American Market’ or ‘What does the future hold for creative documentary filmmaking?’ The festival publications have been as massive as the Berlin or Toronto festivals with a catalogue of 272 pages, a film guide, and an industry guide of 348 pages, a Who’s Who, two daily bulletins, one in Arabic and one in English, the latter of which is more like a bilingual world film market guide covering 140 pages. The organization has been impressive.

As for the films, the festival has succeeded in attracting a bunch of some of the most experienced programmers in the world, with a selection committee composed of Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Antonia Carver, Erfan Rashid, Hannah Fisher, Myrna Maakaron, Nashen Moodley, Philip Cheah, Sheila Whitaker, Simon Field and Uma Da Cunha. Two competitions have been established; the Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema and the Muhr Awards for Excellence in Asia-Africa, both of them subdivided into three categories: narrative features, documentaries, short films. Each of these six subsections had its own jury, with jury members as notorious as Sergei Bodrov, Lebleba, Ahmed El Maanouni, Geoffrey Gilmore, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Naomi Kawase or Niki Karimi. Other sections included gala screenings, lifetime achievement awards to Rachid Bouchareb, Terry Gilliam and Tsui Hark, The Cultural Bridge, Arabian Nights, The Cinema of the World, In Focus — Italy, A Celebration of Indian Cinema, Cinema of Asia Africa, Animation, Cinema of Children, Gulf Voices and Rhythm and Reels. Suffice to say that there was plenty to satisfy every taste in a well balanced mix of international, regional and local flavors.

The Dubai International Film Festival may be only five years old but it has observed, in a very clever way, the positive and the negative of every previous festival on the scene, with enough money to attract the talents, from stars to staff. It is obviously not going to play it small. But what else after all can you expect from a place which was still sand not so long ago and has since built the greatest shopping mall, the biggest duty free and the tallest building in the world? (Jean Roy)