DUBAI // The fourth Gulf Film Festival gets under way on Thursday and with 44 Emirati films in the line-up, the event promises to celebrate the country's cinematic excellence like never before.
There are 21 films vying for top honours in the Gulf Competition, a further 13 in the Student Competition and 150 on offer to the public for free.
The festival runs until April 20 at the Grand Cinema, Dubai Festival City.
"The fourth Gulf Film Festival has one of the largest showcases of Emirati films and films made in the UAE, highlighting the strides our filmmakers have made in creating a vibrant home-grown film industry," said Masoud Amralla al Ali, the festival director.
Movies to be screened include Telephoni, from the first-time director Hassan Kiyany. It tells the story of a nine-year-old boy who discovers a secret through the first test shots taken on his new iPhone.
"This is a short film shot on iPhone 4, and deals with social issues," said the 28-year-old filmmaker from Dubai. "It is full of surprises. I am positive about this festival.
"However, it would be great to have a platform where filmmakers from the region can really connect alongside the festival."
Ahmed Zain's Darkness, set in the 1950s before the advent of modern technology, is an 18-minute drama about a post office worker who used to personally read and write letters for residents.
"I've been in the industry for 10 years," said the 38-year-old Zain who is based in Abu Dhabi.
"I have learned many things from festivals around the world and have been blessed with many awards. This year, I have two movies competing."
His second contender, Baseera(Foresight), is a documentary about a blind man who carries out his daily tasks better than a person with clear vision.
Eighteen filmmakers from the Gulf, Yemen and Iraq are in competition at the festival, shortlisted from hundreds of entries.
The winners in the shorts category receive Dh20,000, Dh15,000, and Dh10,000 for first, second and third prizes. A special jury prize of Dh15,000 goes to the best documentary or short.
The event will also focus on the experimental filmmaker Gerard Courant and feature a master class by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, as well as other workshops and discussions.
Emirati films that debuted at the seventh Dubai International Film Festival, including Abdulla al Kaabi's critically acclaimed short The Philosopher, will also be screened.