The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) topped previous records in its 13th edition, seeing over 60,000 admissions and over 4,000 registered industry professionals and media from around the world reveling in the thrill of cinematic excellence during the eight-day event. The dates for next year’s Festival, which will mark DIFF’s 14th edition, have been confirmed as 6 – 13 December, 2017. The Festival will take place at Madinat Jumeriah, the home of DIFF.
The impressive slate of films showcased during the 2016 Festival featured 156 films from 55 countries, including 57 world and international premieres, 73 MENA premieres, 12 Middle East premieres and 9 GCC premieres.
True to the level of talent on display at the Dubai International Film Festival, the films from its 13th edition have won nine Golden Globe Awards, nine BAFTA awards and received 30 Oscar nominations.
The 13th edition bestowed three prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards, to the American film icon Samuel L. Jackson, the legendary Indian actress Rekha and acclaimed French Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared for their incredible contribution to cinema.
“This year’s edition was spectacular. We saw international films with powerful and unique stories crafted in over 44 languages and from 55 countries. DIFF audiences were up to a challenging task to view so many different perspectives and cultures, but they surprised even us with such an overwhelming support from the community who filled the red carpets, special presentations and screenings. It truly captures the spirit of our work at the Festival, to celebrate our differences and discover how similar we are through the powerful medium that is film,” said DIFF’s Chairman Abdulhamid Juma, who was honoured by a Distinctive International Arab Festival Award this January for his contribution to Arab cinema.
He continued: “Centering on the core of DIFF to support the growth of Arab cinema, we screened more than 70 films from across the region, including highly debated topics which sparked discussion and won critical praise at the Festival and abroad. I am also delighted to continue to see the unabated growth of our industry arms – Dubai Film Market and Dubai Film Connection – which this year hosted more than 1,400 delegates to share insights, grow knowledge and further strengthen the work of individuals to their goal of the silver screen.”
New to this year’s offerings was Dubai Investors Club (DIC) at Dubai Film Market, whose successful inaugural year promises further growth in upcoming editions.
The 13th edition also witnessed a brand new Virtual Reality (VR) programme, ‘DIFFerent REALITY’, designed to give Festival-goers a window into the possibilities of virtual reality technology by viewing films in a whole new dimension at the du VR Cinema powered by Samsung, a first for the region ensuring DIFF is at the forefront of bringing the latest and advanced film-making techniques to the Arab world.
The Festival in partnership with Screen International launched the first ever ‘Arab Stars of Tomorrow’ initiative designed to shine the international spotlight on the talented and promising young stars from the Middle East. The inaugural selection included; Lebanese director Mounia Akl, Tunisian actress Mariam El Ferjani, Jordanian director Amjad Al-Rasheed, Syrian actor Samer Ismail and Moroccan filmmaker Alaa Eddine Aljem.
Bringing together industry professionals, students and media to forge connections and shine a spotlight on the regional film industry, the Dubai Film Market (DFM), the leading industry platform for Arab cinema and business epicenter of the Festival, welcomed more than 4,000 industry representatives, media and film professionals from 62 countries.
Insightful ‘In Conversations’ were hosted in by industry leaders which included president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy award and four time BAFTA award winning director Asif Kapadia and highly acclaimed filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson who shared insights and anecdotes during bespoke Forum sessions, while cinema icon, Samuel L. Jackson held audiences captive as part of the ‘In Conversation With’ series for the 2016 Festival. At the same time, the Dubai Film Connection (DFC) returned to awarded funds and partnership opportunities to help regional filmmakers bring their work to the silver screen. It witnessed an impressive 231 meetings over three days and more than 1470 attendees participating in forum sessions. Alongside the DFC was newcomer Dubai Investors Club at DFM, whose inaugural year was a success with delegates experiencing a wealth of knowledge through vital access to industry leaders and decision makers as well as great insights into the film industry and fruitful film financing.
DIFF’s post-production programme Enjaaz supported 11 extraordinary films in the programme and an additional 9 further feature and short films which will receive fundamental support to help emerging regional talent finalise their works and bring their projects to screens and audiences this year. Since the programme’s inception, more than 140 films have benefitted from the support system provided by Enjaaz.
The showcase of the most exciting independent films from the Arab world at the DFM were well received by the industry and partners of the Dubai Distribution Programme picked up titles from the DIFF programme including Iraqi Cinemas acquiring A DAY FOR WOMEN and VOX will distribute LISA in the UAE. DIFF also welcomed a slate of new partnerships including the region’s leading pay TV network OSN to present a showcase of content throughout the week including a screening and in conversation with the stars of HBO’s hit show Westworld, E! Entertainments Giuliana Rancic was LIVE from DIFF’s red carpet, Shadi Alfons and Khalid Mansour comedians and hosts ofSaturday Night Live Arabia hosted a comedy workshop during the festival and there was a Sundance masterclass with acclaimed Hollywood Actress Andie MacDowell.
Further strengthening DIFF’s relationship with the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Frémaux, the General Director of the Cannes Film Festival and the Institut Lumière in Lyon presented the insightful presentation ‘Lumière! Inventing Cinema’ to festival goers.
DIFF also welcomed members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) to the festival following the inaugural event in November which saw the festival present two exceptional Arab films for Golden Globe Award consideration. The HFPA the classic 1964 spaghetti western film ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ which they recently restored to audiences at the BEACH, JBR.
Included amongst the Festival highlights were the free film screenings at The Beach, JBR, whose eight days of enchantment saw crowds flock to be part of the excitement, which included live performances. The D3: DIFF Fashion Forward takeover on the Madinat Arena Red Carpet for the penultimate day of the Festival, was also a fan favourite that featured six local designers showcasing the wide array of talent in the art world and beyond in the United Arab Emirates.
The final day of DIFF featured the esteemed Muhr Awards, which celebrate the best in local and regional short and feature films from the year, held at the Madinat Theatre.
Winning the Best Director in the Muhr Emirati category was Yaser Alneyadi for his film ‘Shrimp’, winner of the Best Emirati Feature went to ‘Only Men go to the Grave’ directed by Abdulla Al Kaabi, whilst ‘Mamsous’ directed by Shatha Masoud was named Best Muhr Emirati Short. In the Muhr Shorts category, Special Jury Prize went to Mounia Akl for ‘Submarine’ and the Best Muhr Short went to director Mehdi M. Barsaoui for ‘We Are Just Fine Like This’. In the Muhr Gulf Short category, Best Muhr Gulf Short went to Bader Alhomoud for ‘The Bliss of Being No One’, and Mohammed Alholayyil was awarded the Special Jury Prize for his film ‘300KM’.
The Muhr Feature category saw Eliane Raheb awarded the Special Jury Prize for her feature ‘Those Who Remain’, while Maher Abi Samra was presented with the Best Muhr Non-Fiction Feature prize for ‘A Maid for Each’, and winner of the Best Muhr Fiction Feature was handed to Hussein Hassan for ‘The Dark Wind’. Best Director was presented to Mohammed Hammad for his outstanding film ‘Withered Green’, while Julia Kassar took home Best Actress for her work in ‘Tramontane’ and Ali Sobhi took home Best Actor for ‘Ali, The Goat and Ibrahim’. Darin Sallam was awarded the Ministry of Interior Award, along with the prize of USD 100,000, for ‘Best Societal Screenplay’ and earlier in the week Abdullah Hassan Ahmed won the fifth IWC Filmmaker Award and a grant of USD 100,000 for his project “Sunrise” during the IWC “For The Love of Cinema” gala event.
Following the Awards, the Madinat Arena Red Carpet was one with The Force as costumed fans flocked to ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, directed by Gareth Edwards.
Chairman Juma concluded: “Throughout the year we will continue to join forces with industry partners to promote local and regional film, and we look forward to welcoming back audiences from near and far to celebrate fresh storytelling, industry achievements and regional and international icons for the 14th edition later this year.”
The 14th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will be held December 6 – 13, 2017. For more information, please visit www.diff.ae.