DUBAI // The UAE is at the vanguard of growth in Arab cinema, according to Iraqi filmmakers participating in the fourth Gulf Film Festival.
Oday Rasheed, whose film Qarantina is screening tonight, said the three festivals held in the Emirates - the Gulf festival, the Dubai International Film Festival and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival - have given young Arab filmmakers an opportunity to refine their skills.
"These festivals are at the centre of Gulf cinema growth and the UAE is storming this wave," said Rasheed, whose film had its Middle East premiere at the Abu Dhabi festival before going on to win the special jury prize at the Oran International Film Festival in Algeria.
"I got great feedback and Qarantina was chosen to compete in the upcoming film festivals in Seattle and Munich and others," he said.
Rasheed is attending the Gulf festival to take part in a class taught by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.
Also showing tonight is Haider Rashid's Before the Storm, an intimate short film about the chaos in Cairo before the uprising.
"When the protests erupted, I realised the shots I took revealed something significant. It's a portrait of the city in rush hour with no attempt at drama because it's all there," Rashid said.
His first feature film, Tangled in Blue, was shot in London and won second prize at last year's Gulf festival.
"It's an exciting and important festival and it means a lot to be chosen in competition," said the director, who is based in Florence, Italy.
His upcoming two projects are the feature films Nowhere and Babylon, to be filmed in a year.
Koutaiba Al Janabi's directorial debut, Leaving Baghdad, a drama about one of Saddam Hussein's personal bodyguards escaping the regime, is also screening today. The film received post-production funding at the 7th Dubai International Film Festival, and is to be screened at some 60 British cinemas in October.
"I try to speak about living under a dictatorship. Paranoia was a feeling in my heart but when the statue of Saddam fell, it disappeared," said Al Janabi, who has been in the industry for 20 years as a cinematographer.
A full programme for the festival is available at www.gulffilmfest.com.