Rythm and Reels, one of DIFF’s side programs, in Jumeirah Beach Residences. Image courtesy of Dubai Properties Group.

The Dubai International Film Festival is one of the three large-scale film festivals in the Gulf, along with Doha’s Tribeca¬† Film Festival and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. It takes place in December, and 2012 sees the 9th edition, making it the senior of the three. But the competition has come close.

Each of these festivals is aspiring to become a major player in the world film scene. Although until now all lack the reputation of the festival of Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance or even Rotterdam, ambitions abound, and the festivals have large budgets. Meanwhile each of the festivals is gaining a reputation for presenting the most essential cinematography from the Arab world and nearby South-Asia and being a free-haven for them. Made easy by the fact that the region itself has only a few filmmakers, so the chance that controversial movies would emerge from the region itself are yet slim. They foster new makers from the wide region, including makers who work outside the mainstream, sometimes with relatively low budgets. So perhaps rather than providing the mother city with another prestigious event, the value of these festivals is that they contribute to a healthy film climate in the region, with further ramifications in the audiovisual arts.

In many ways the Dubai festival can be seen as the film counterpart of Art Dubai: on the one hand it aspires to be a player in the regional commercial film world; but on the other hand it aims at nurturing young moviemakers and the local film scene. This sets it apart from European and American film festivals, which tend to build on existing arts communities instead of building them up. This energy makes DIFF, much like Art Dubai (and Abu Dhabi Art) a platform that attracts film professionals from all over the world.

Written by: Neil Last modified: 16th Nov 2012