In the Middle East, and particularly in the Gulf, film festivals are growing rapidly and are fast becoming recognized events amongst the global film community. The Arab film industry has evolved into a popular entertainment outlet in the region and has produced internationally recognized, award-winning works consisting of different genres.
The various film festivals in the Middle East have been set up under the patronage of each country's government to promote, encourage and celebrate the distinct film industry and create wider cultural awareness of the region through film. The festivals adhere to the rigid international standards and rules, and with notable juries consisting of local and international representatives from the film industry, the organizers do not compromise on the quality of the films screened to the audience.
Dubai International Film Festival – December 6 – 14, 2013
Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) was the first film festival initiated in the Middle East back in 2004. After two years of intense planning, the week-long show successfully screened 75 films for about 13,000 people.
A city focused upon promoting art and culture, DIFF is a platform for giving access to films to the community while showcasing local and international talent. By nurturing and encouraging filmmakers to take risks and explore their creative boundaries, DIFF celebrates excellence in cinema.
Over the years, DIFF has premiered movies like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (USA) and A Whole One (Egypt). Attended by celebrities from around the world, the red carpet has hosted internationally renowned artists like Amitabh Bachchan, Orlando Bloom, Tom Cruise and Richard Gere.
DIFF always concludes with several prestigious awards handed out to those films picked by the jury in different categories including Lifetime Achievement Award and Variety International Star of the Year Award. The People's Choice Award is given to a film picked by the audience.
Abu Dhabi Film Festival – October 24 – November 2, 2013
Established in 2007, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) aims to bridge the gap between Arab and international filmmakers. Its main focus is to bring cinema to the local audience and give them a chance to watch, interact and engage with the creative minds behind the films.
Every year ADFF extends an invitation to both short and long documentary and narrative films with USD 1 million worth of cash prize money given to the winners of the different categories.
The Festival is extremely supportive of regional, independent filmmakers and has set up SANAD, a Development and Post-Production Fund that connects filmmakers with funding opportunities.
Doha Tribeca Film Festival – November 26 – 30, 2013
Founded in 2009, the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) is a cultural partner of the prestigious New York based Tribeca Film Festival that was established post-9/11 to bring the community together. DTFF belongs to the Doha Film Institute that spearheads all film initiatives in Qatar. Just like its New York counterpart, DTFF is focused upon promoting education and culture to the audience through film entertainment.
The films showcased during the five-day event include both Middle Eastern and World cinema. The films are selected with the vision to educate and also entertain the community. During the events, the audience is given a chance to interact in lively discussions with the filmmakers. With barely two years behind it, the event attracts approximately 50,000 people and Hollywood celebrities like Salma Hayek and Kevin Spacey.
Gulf Film Festival – April 9 – 15, 2014
Held in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf Film Festival began in 2008 to promote the finest films from the Gulf. Taking place between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it is an avenue for regional filmmakers to promote their films and start working on upcoming ones.
The films predominantly focus around thoughtful, social, religious, political and cultural topics. Over the years, the number of films showcased has grown, with new filmmakers finding inspiration by the recent developments in the region.
Each year, both international and local films are awarded prizes that start at Dhs 15,000 each. One of the most distinct features of the festival is the daily ‘Gulf Nights’ event held at midnight for participants to discuss cinema at The Filmmaker’s Lounge.
Muscat International Film Festival – Date TBA
The Muscat International Film Festivals (MIFF) is amongst the oldest in the region with its first event in 2005. In March 2012, the organizers wrapped up their 7th successful year. The eight-day event organized by the Oman Film Society hosts film screenings from over 90 different countries including France and Syria.
Committed to promoting homegrown talent, the festival provides local filmmakers with a platform to showcase their creative work. MIFF gives the audience an avenue to explore, understand and celebrate their society through film. This year they have also added a musical program to the schedule for further cultural immersion.