The race is on to build an Arab film industry with a distinctive voice with a touch of Hollywood know-how


The cinema at the Grand Abu Dhabi Mall, in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, offers a choice of eight films. Six of them are Hollywood blockbusters such as Ridley Scott's American Gangster. The city's large Indian expatriate community may be tempted to see a Bollywood musical called Aaja Nachle. The only Arab-language film showing is Khiyana Mashrooa, a crime thriller out of Cairo. None of these films can be said to reflect the sensibilities of the UAE. That's because the UAE has no indigenous film culture to speak of. That is about to change.

In 2004, Hani Al-Shaibani's Dream was the first major feature film to come out of the Emirates. The story, in which frustrated writers, actors and directors head outside the city to make a film about themselves before losing themselves within it, serves as a metaphor for the difficulties facing the country. The endeavour, however, is advancing at a remarkable speed. Started in 2004, and launching its fourth event today, the Dubai International Film Festival has already become one of the most prestigious film festivals in the Arab world. Just 75 miles down the coast, Abu Dhabi inaugurated its own fest in October, the Middle East International Film Festival.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are vying to become cinema hubs of the Middle East. Both, in recent years, have attracted big US productions: Syriana (2005), shot on location in Dubai, and this year's The Kingdom, starring Jamie Foxx, in which Abu Dhabi stood in for Riyadh. Both are now luring American media giants to help jump start their own industries.

(Source: The Guardian UK)

Film Business, Film Festival, Filmmaking, International Cinema

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