Shining the light on aspiring regional filmmakers, Tropfest Arabia returns to the capital for a second year. Here's your must-have guide to the much anticipated 2012 competition.
Not familiar? Here's the skinny: it's the Arabic version of the world's largest short film festival which originated in Australia and has fast become one of the country's major cultural events. Open to nationals from 19 countries in the Mena region, the Arabian version has just announced the judging panel for its second edition. Tomorrow night, the Emirati animator and the creator of the TV series Freej, Mohammed Saeed Harib, will represent the UAE and critique hopefuls competing for a plethora of prizes.
Joining Harib at the top table are a host of actors, directors and producers from the Middle East. Not least among them is Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker, Haifa Al Mansour, the Egyptian writer and director Amr Salama and the Lebanese musician-cum-composer, Khaled Mouzanar.
Ones to watch
Whittled down from more than 200 hundreds entries, 16 shortlisted films selected by Tropfest's founder John Polson and this year's co-director, the Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, will be shown to the jury. The victors' names will then be announced before a live audience, says Sabry.
"Tropfest Arabia proved a huge success in its inaugural year with high-quality film submissions coming in from across the region," she says. "We anticipated an even higher volume of submissions this year and I'm very pleased that we have managed to create a very strong and diverse jury that will have the arduous task of picking a winner."
The creative criteria
The judges will be casting their eagle eyes over each short film to ensure they contain "TSI", or the "Tropfest Signature Items". This year's theme is simply described as "two" by the organisers, who expect the filmmakers to interpret the number as obviously or as subtly as they please.
"The TSI is designed to test the creativity of local filmmakers and to ensure that their entries are made specifically for Tropfest Arabia 2012," says Sabry.
Spanning all genres and styles, this year's entries include the Moroccan director Khaled El Boumeshouli's film Abjad, which tells the story of a man who is both passionate about classical Arabic and suffering from insomnia. Also to be shown is For Sale by the Egyptian filmmaker Ehab Mustapha, which depicts a melancholy clown who tries to sell his heart to regain lost hope.
Getting the gongs
Up for grabs this year is the top prize of US$12,500 (Dh45,900) plus a trip to Los Angeles to hobnob with industry professionals, courtesy of the Motion Picture Association. The second placed filmmaker will receive $7,500 and a trip to the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, thanks to twofour54 and Variety magazine. The filmmaker awarded third place will be given $5,000 and an internship with MBC2.
The event, which will take place at Al Sahil Beach, Abu Dhabi Corniche, is free to the public and doors will open at 6.30pm.If you are unable to attend on the big night, check out the Mena region offerings that made it through to the final round at www.tropfest.com or www.tropfest.com/arabia-en. Further information can also be found at www.facebook.com/TROPFEST.arabia, twitter.com/TROPFESTarabia and www.youtube.com/TROPFESTarabia