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The second Dubai International Film Festival still growing

The second Dubai International Film Festival (“DIFF”) will be bigger and better than its predecessor, with more and diverse films, a strengthened team of programmers, and changes in ticketing procedures and scheduling, Festival organizers announced at a press conference at the Madinat Jumeirah today. Apart from the enhancements, the 2005 Festival, which will run from December 11 to 17 this year, will retain most of its successful inaugural framework.
Mr. Ahmad bin Byat, the Director General of the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority which oversees DIFF, commented: “We were all very happy and pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming community response to our first film festival last year. We are in no doubt that DIFF is and will in the future be an extremely important institution in Dubai and we plan to develop it with great care.”
Attended by close to 13,000 people at six cinema venues, DIFF 2004 showcased 76 features, retrospectives and short films from 27 countries in 10 program sections. The Festival, held between December 6 and 11, included 31 Gulf premieres, 13 Middle East premieres, one international premiere and one world premiere. DIFF 2005 will feature 85 films, with each film being screened at least twice; spread over 12 sections, including five brand new additions.
“The ‘Cultural Bridge’ theme will continue to be a defining cornerstone of the Festival and underpin the whole event,” said Neil Stephenson, Festival Director and CEO. “The film program for DIFF 2005 will build largely on the foundation we built in 2004, with no dramatic changes, as last year’s program was generally well received.”
“In keeping with our goal of showcasing and developing Arab cinema, the program will feature a stronger Arab cinema component, with approximately 38 films as opposed to 33 last year,” Stephenson said. “There will also be two new sections - Dubai Discoveries and Emerging Emiratis – which will focus solely on Arab cinema. The Emerging Emiratis section, as the name suggests, will provide a designated showcase of films made by rising UAE filmmakers.”
Other new program sections include Insights from Asia, Café Europe and In Honour of Africa, a collection of the best of cinema from these regions. The existing In the Spotlight section, a retrospective tribute to distinguished filmmakers and artists, will be expanded to add a Hollywood honoree slot to the two existing berths for distinguished Arab and Asian artistes.
Festival organizers have also instituted a number of public outreach programs. At the centre of this outreach effort is the new DIFF Apprenticeship Program, where 10 young UAE nationals and other Arab filmmakers will be chosen to assist in the
management and programming of the Festival. The number of panel discussions and interactive forums between the public and film community has also been increased – from one in 2004 to several for this year. A full day conference of panels and discussions is currently being discussed by DIFF and a major film industry trade paper. The planned panel discussions will focus on issues of special interest to the Dubai and regional film community.
“As a film festival born and nurtured in the UAE, serving the local and regional Arab community is one of our key goals,” Stephenson added. “I am especially pleased to announce the new DIFF Apprenticeship Program today, and to welcome these 10 young members of the Arab film community as our friends and partners in developing a vibrant future for the Festival and for filmmaking in this region. This new program is a direct manifestation of our desire and goal to support and foster Arab cinema and Arab talent”
Stephenson also welcomed five new programmers to the Festival’s existing roster: Ziad Khatlan, a film critic, author and film festival jurist, who will be overseeing the Dubai Discoveries segment; Simon Field, former Director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, who will be heading the new Café Europe and Insights from Asia sections; Nashen Moodley, a film critic, journalist and the current artistic director of the Durban International Film Festival, and head of DIFF’s new In Honour of Africa program; Peter Scarlet, Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Festival of New York and former artistic director of the San Francisco International Film Festival, who will be responsible for the Hollywood honoree of the In the Spotlight section; and Raouf Tewfik, the highly respected Egyptian cineaste and Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, to select the Arab honoree in the same section.
“The key to our Festival’s quality and cinematic diversity rests in the hands of our highly respected programmers, and I am confident that the new additions to the team will not only further the Festival’s mission of promoting inter-cultural dialogue and understanding through film, but will also help our Festival to grow into a world-class destination festival for the international film community,” Stephenson added.
The stronger, enhanced and artistically richer successor to the inaugural Dubai International Film Festival will be the last of four film festivals taking place across the region in Marrakech, Damascus and Cairo.
Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, CEO of both Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City said: “The synergies between DIFF and Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City are obvious and we have both a great pride and a special interest in the festival.”
Ensuring all film-goers have ample opportunity to see the films they desire, the festival will present 60% more screenings this year which will be seen at 13 screens at five different venues. DIFF will again use the Madinat Arena (DIFF’s gala venue), the Madinat Theatre at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, and the Dubai Media City (DMC) Amphitheatre. New venues for DIFF 2005 will be the Dubai Knowledge Village Auditorium, which will be used for both film screenings and panel discussions, and the Cinestar complex at the new Mall of the Emirates.
To guarantee advance ticket purchase, the DIFF Box Office service will open in late November and will be situated at the Madinat Arena, the Madinat Theatre at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, DMC, Dubai Knowledge Village, Cinestar at Deira City Center, Cinestar at Mall of the Emirates and at the Emirates Towers.
The Festival’s website, at, has also been revamped and streamlined, making it easier for members of the public, the international film community, the media, and DIFF business partners to navigate the wealth of information available online. Users will also be able to access the film schedule as well as buy film tickets online after finalization of the program in November.

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