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Dubai Media City sets inaugural festival dates

Inaugural Dubai International Film Festival aims to build cultural bridges

Cultural understanding and international harmony will be the themes of the inaugural Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai Media City’s newly launched film festival scheduled for December 2004 6-11, 2004.

To be held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, the festival will showcase a wide selection of contemporary and classic global cinema, which will appeal to Dubai’s multi-cultural community. The event will open on the evening of Monday, December 6 and run for five full days with a closing gala scheduled for the evening of Saturday, December 11. (See programme overleaf.)

Endorsing the theme of the event, the Festival Chairman Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Department of Civil Aviation and Chairman of the Emirates Group, said: “Dubai has always been a cultural crossroad where people from all over the world live together in a peaceful and harmonious environment. I hope that this festival, through the medium of film, can make a small contribution toward building cultural bridges and promoting peace and understanding on the international stage.”

“In addition, Dubai has always been a city of film-lovers. I am confident that the timing is now right for Dubai to join the global family of film festivals and I hope that the festival will establish itself as an important event on the international film industry calendar during the coming years,” Sheikh Ahmed added.

Dubai Media City will organize and manage the event in association with top programming consultants from around the world. The inaugural festival will feature 80 films in the main programme in addition to some sidebars and short films. Dubai’s cosmopolitan character was a key factor in designing the programme structure.

Ahmad Bin Byat, Director General of the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone said: “I see the Film Festival as an important cornerstone in the foundation of the cultural infrastructure of Dubai, which, in turn, will make a contribution to achieving the Free Zone’s overall mandate of building a vibrant knowledge-based economy in Dubai.”

“The film festival will be a wonderful event for film professionals and cinema-lovers from all over the world to network and discuss both the art and the business of film,” he added.

The Ferstival is held under the patronage of H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Chairmanship of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.


The DIFF will feature six red carpet evening gala screenings which will be held on the six nights of the festival at the new Madinat Jumeirah Arabian Resort, which will provide a spectacular backdrop to the festival. The festival’s other screenings will take place at various venues and cinemas around Dubai.

The film festival will feature contemporary and classic films in seven main programmes that will showcase both global and regional cinema.

1. Arabian Nights: A selection of films by the world’s best Arab filmmakers showcasing contemporary Arab cinema. (20 films) (A film from this section will inaugurate the festival).

2. “Operation Cultural Bridge”: The new millennium has seen a significant increase in conflict and misunderstanding between the Islamic world and the broader Western world. This section will feature an international selection of films that tell stories which serve to tear down walls of inter-racial prejudice and intolerance, and which help to stimulate dialogue and build cross-border and cross-cultural bridges in the post-September 11 era. (15 films)

3. Bollywood Meets Hollywood: A selection of Bollywood classics and new crossover films produced or inspired by Bollywood for an international audience. (10 films)

4. Cinema from the Subcontinent: A selection of films produced by emerging young and independent filmmakers from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. (10 films)

5. Destination Documentary: “The Horse, the Falcon and the Desert”: The 2004 edition of this section will celebrate films that shine a spotlight on the precious natural assets of the planet and that remind viewers of the importance of environmental conservation and habitat protection.

This programming will feature documentaries which illuminate and educate on this topic. The festival is particularly interested in films which feature the natural environment and wildlife of the deserts and surrounding waters of the Arabian peninsula, but all films which stimulate interest in the world’s natural environment will be considered. (5 films)

6. Hi-Tech Hollywood: A selection of releases from the studios of the film capital of the world which showcase the increasingly important role of computer technology and high-tech know-how in today’s films and which convincingly transport audiences into compelling new worlds. (5 films)

7. Contemporary World Cinema: From London to Tehran to Manila: This segment is wide in its scope and welcomes interesting new works from independent filmmakers across the globe. For its 2004 edition however, the festival will shine a light on works of cinematic excellence by filmmakers from Europe, Iran and the Philippines. (15 films)

The DIFF will also present the following special sidebars:

1. Screen on the Green: A sidebar collection of 4 classic films from a celebrated actor to be screened in the open-air amphitheatre of Dubai Media City. A speech will be given by a renowned guest followed by a question and answer session moderated by a leading film personality. (4 films)

2. “Director’s Spotlight Retrospective”: This sidebar will be a special retrospective showcasing the work of a distinguished movie director from the Arab world, from Bollywood and from Hollywood. Two celebrated films from each director will be showcased. (6 films)

3. Arabian Shorts: A selection of Arab short films to precede the features showcased in the DIFF’s “Operation Cultural Bridge” program and the “Contemporary World Cinema” program. These shorts will either contain a distinct Arabian theme or will be directed/produced by young emerging Arab filmmakers. (30 shorts)

Dubai Media City hopes that the festival will grow slowly but steadily over the coming years so that it can one day join the ranks of the world’s leading film festivals. For now, the focus is on building a strong local event and developing a loyal and enthusiastic local audience. The organizers also emphasized the inclusiveness of the festival and said the fest would be an annual cultural event which will belong to all the people of Dubai. In addition, it is hoped that the festival will support and encourage UAE and Arab filmmakers.

“We are very enthused about the promising potential of the DIFF,” said Abdulhamid Juma, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Media City. “Dubai Media City is emerging as an important media hub and a host for a wide array of global cultural and entertainment events. We see Dubai Media City playing a key role in developing this media segment. This film festival is a logical step for us to take at this juncture. Dubai has the right ingredients to become an attractive magnet for this industry and considerable interest has already been generated from the global film community. We hope to build on this momentum and carry this initiative forward with the support of both the government and the private sector,” he added.

Dubai Media City also announced today that the Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort of Dubai, will be the epicentre and backdrop for the festival. Organizers are also in sponsorship discussions with several major local and international companies who have expressed keen interest in the event.

The Festival Director and CEO, Neil Stephenson, commented: “The DIFF Steering Committee at DMC has been laying the groundwork for this festival over the last year and we will be regularly updating the Dubai community on our progress over the next 9 months, including full details of the DIFF Programming Team.

“We hope that we can create an event that will stamp its mark on the international film calendar and celebrate excellence in the motion picture arts as well as bring people together through a common love of cinema,” he added.


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