6 film festivals in the Arabian Gulf

As the Gulf Film Festival comes to a close in Dubai and the Al Jazeera Documentary Film Festival kicks off in Doha I started thinking about how popular film festivals are becoming in the Arabian Gulf in particular. So, I compiled a short list.

Here is just a list of six but there are actually many more coming and going all the time, like the Bahrain Human Rights International Film Festival which took place in 2008 and 2009, or the Jeddah Film Festival that was cancelled in its fourth year in 2009.

1. Gulf Film Festival – Dubai, UAE

Just finished on April 16th, the Gulf Film Festival is a non-profit cultural event in Dubai that aims to raise the profiles of Gulf cinema. Its aims, as outlined on the official website, are:

The Festival aims to develop the local and regional film culture in the Gulf, creating greater opportunities for filmmakers from the region to screen their films and develop future film projects.

The Festival aims to celebrate excellence in Gulf cinema and be a destination festival for the international film community to discover state of the art Gulf Cinema.

This year, among many others, GFF2012 saw the screening of ‘drawcumentary’ Glitterdust: Finding Art in Dubai which was produced by Katy Chang. A must-see!

2. Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival – Doha, Qatar

Just a few days after GFF2012 finishes, this one started up and runs from 19th – 22nd April.

The Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival started up in 2005 and according to its website was conceived:

To introduce different cultures from all over the world, foster better relationships through an exchange of experiences and knowledge thus creating a foundation of respect and understanding.

UPDATE: Since the festival, many snippets of the documentaries have been uploaded by the official channel to YouTube. Here is a portion of a very interesting-looking winner:

3. Dubai International Film Festival – Dubai, UAE

This one is probably one of the more famous film festivals in the Gulf. DIFF 2012 will take place from 9th – 16th December. It is held under the banner of ‘Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds.’

Originally created in 2004, the Dubai Film Festival has since become world famous and one of the foremost film festivals in Asia.  It showcases Arab cinema but stars from every corner of the globe descend upon Dubai to attend this rather sparkly event.

This year DIFF even had a stand at the Cannes Film Festival!

4. Doha Tribeca Film Festival – Doha, Qatar

This one comes as part of a collaboration with the Tribeca Enterprises. Everyone has certainly heard of the Tribeca Film Festival, founded by Robert De Niro, in Lower Manhattan (also running right now from 18th April – 29th). Well this is Doha’s version and oh yes, De Niro has attended.

The date has not been scheduled for this year yet but last year’s ran from 25th – 29th October.

WARNING! THIS IS VERY INTERESTING… Here is a video where DTFF asked Arab filmmakers at Cannes what they think their biggest obstacle is:

5. Kuwait Young Film Festival – Kuwait

This festival, a non-profit, was introduced to support the country’s talented youth and also put Kuwait on the film and cinema industry’s map. It usually runs simultaneous workshops and social gatherings for discussions on the film screenings.

Last year’s had five categories in the competition: cinematography, editing and sound for cinema, advertising for cinema and new media, acting for cinema, and directing and filmmaking.

I’m afraid this year’s festival is a bit of a mystery as of right now, but I will keep you posted!

6. Abu Dhabi Film Festival – Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi certainly had a bit of a chore on its hands when it set this one up with the already very successful festivals taking place in the neighbouring emirate of Dubai, but they have done a good job.

The website states its mission:

the event is committed to curating exceptional programs to engage and educate the local community, inspire filmmakers and nurture the growth of the regional film industry…

At the same time, a strong focus on the bold new voices of Arab cinema connects with Abu Dhabi’s role as a burgeoning cultural capital in the region and marks the Festival as a place for the world to discover and gauge the pulse of recent Arab filmmaking.

Already in its fifth year, the 2012 festival will take place from 11th – 20th October.

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