DUBAI // Workshops to nurture the region's film industry will be held during the fourth Gulf Film Festival, encouraging students and young filmmakers to develop a thorough understanding of cinema, the festival's director said.
A programme expansion, including special workshops on Thursday, the opening day of the festival, will deliver insights into the film business in an effort to build on the industry's foundations, Masoud Amralla al Ali said.
"It's something that will give them a flavour on how to make films," he said. "It's not about how to own the camera and shoot, it's about how to deeply understand the cinema, which is what we need.
"We must build the film industry in the Gulf region, and the workshops are a great opportunity."
The festival will showcase 153 films - including 45 Emirati titles - from 31 countries until April 20 at the Grand Cinema in Dubai Festival City.
Abdulhamid Juma, the chairman of the festival, said: "We wanted to make sure we take care of the industry, and do whatever we can do as a film festival because there are a lot of gaps in this industry, from financing to distribution."
This year's line-up includes 59 world premieres, 15 GCC premieres and 10 UAE premieres. There are 85 entries from the GCC, including 12 from Saudi Arabia, 11 from Kuwait, eight from Qatar, seven from Oman and two from Bahrain.
The workshops will teach filmmakers and students how to get their films seen and offer an introduction to filmmaking conducted by the New York Film Academy. Other topics include making the right technical choices and how to apply to international festivals.
"We want to look at students and young filmmakers because they are the industry's future," Mr Juma said.
With 1,400 film submissions, Emirati filmmakers, including Amina bin Dasmal, Ali al Jabri and Talal Mahmood, took the lead, according to Shivani Pandya, the managing director of Dubai Entertainment and Media Organisation.
"The participation from the Gulf has been greater than before, and we've had more Emirati films this year - up from 36 to 45," she said.
The festival's "In Focus" segment will highlight Cinematon, a 156-hour work from the experimental French filmmaker Gerard Courant. Installations throughout the festival will showcase 48 parts of the film.
A 10-day masterclass conducted by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami and attended by 45 filmmakers worldwide began yesterday as part of the festival. The filmmakers will each produce a film by the end of the workshop.
"The idea is to get good experience and good direction," Ms Pandya said. She said two competitions were on the agenda: the Gulf Competition, with 64 professional Gulf filmmakers, and a student category.
On Monday, students will be able to visit the set and view filming of the horror film Djinn at Studio City. They will also meet the film's director, Tobe Hooper.
An eclectic set of films, including six features made in the region and 16 animated films, will touch on Middle Eastern developments as well as lighthearted local issues.
"The Emirati film Calendar by Mr al Jabri is one of the films describing what has been happening in the Middle East," Mr al Ali said.
"It is an interesting time for the Gulf and the Arabs, so people should expect to hear their stories," Mr Juma said.
"People think Emirati films don't even exist, but this attitude is changing. Before 1990 there were only 58 Emirati films and now there are over 700, which is a big jump."
Mr al Ali said people in the UAE were now aware of the country's film industry, thanks to home-grown films such as City of Life by Ali Mustafa, which sold more than 70,000 tickets.
"That film did very well at the box office and I think those are the same people who are helping the industry to grow in the UAE," he said.
The festival will open on Thursday night with the world premiere of an Iraqi documentary, Child of Iraq, by Ala'a Mohsen. The film depicts his return to the country after 14 years.