The fifth edition of the annual Gulf Film 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) was officially inaugurated at Dubai Festival City on April 10th, 2012.

Held from the 10th to the 16th of April, it is one of the most highly anticipated events in the UAE social calendar.  The festival aims to promote and encourage upcoming and established filmmakers, provide them a platform and celebrate cinema.

This year’s line-up of 155 films from 40 nations promises to be original, insightful and powerful.  The regional filmmakers dominate the festival with 42 films from the UAE, 16 from Iraq, 12 from Bahrain, 11 from Saudi Arabia and a few from Iran, Jordan and Oman.

The two main competition categories include The Gulf Competition and The International Competition for Short Films. The first is for regional filmmakers and students, or filmmakers who are not regional but their films are about the region; the latter is open to international films and filmmakers. With prize money starting at AED 15,000, the reward for winning is high.

Tora Bora by the Kuwati filmmaker, Walid Al Awadi was the inaugural film on the opening night.  A fictional drama, the film revolves around a couple's struggle to find their son after he is persuaded into joining an extremist group in Afghanistan. Al Awadi, is one of the six filmmakers representing Kuwait at the festival.

Another highly anticipated multi-award winning short film from Kuwait is the Alice in Wonderland adaptation Wonderland: A True Story by Dana Al Mojil. With Kuwait as its setting, the film is a commentary on the social and political status of the country and its likeness with the fantasy land.

From the UAE, Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai is creating quite a few waves.  It is an entertaining documentary with a mix of animations and live footage about three artists and their search for culture.

This year, the public will enjoy films ranging from different genres, time periods and topics.  The films are strong with great cinematography and are focused on social, political, cultural and religious subjects.

Apart from the screenings, the event is also hosting ‘Gulf Nights’, for the participants.  These are late night sessions to debate and discuss cinema at The Filmmakers Lounge.

A set of workshops has also been designed.  The topics vary from budget planning to sound and color grading and are open to anyone interested in the art of filmmaking.

One of the highlights of the event is a weeklong Master Class by the acclaimed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who will give the participants an insight into his expertise on the subject of film.

With a jury consisting of renowned film critics, filmmakers, playwrights and film submissions that are impactful and inspirational, there are some tough decisions to be made.

– Saira Malik

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