x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Film Festival proves a hit

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival gets a sponsorship boost as organisers look to reduce reliance on government funding of the arts. Watch video

Peter Scarlet, theexecutive director of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, said 'a mix [of private and government sponsorship] is the healthiest - that's what we're striving for.' Ravindranath K / The National
Peter Scarlet, theexecutive director of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, said 'a mix [of private and government sponsorship] is the healthiest - that's what we're striving for.' Ravindranath K / The National

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival has reported a boost in sponsorship this year as the organisers look increasingly to the private sector for funding of the 10-day event.

The film festival has 17 official partners, up from 12 last year, according to its website.

Major sponsors include the cosmetics brand Make Up Forever, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Mercedes-Benz.

Other partners include Etihad Airways, VOX Cinemas, the media zone twofour54, YahLive and BlackBerry. Abu Dhabi Media, which owns and publishes The National, is another partner.

"Until now, artistic activity has been exclusively underwritten by the Government here. And that's great, and we're very grateful for that support," said Peter Scarlet, the executive director of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

"But it's good also for the private sector to be involved. And to have companies stepping forth to play a role, I think, is a very healthy sign for the film festival, and for the broad scene of cultural activity here in Abu Dhabi in general."

Mr Scarlet said that while he did not know whether the festival would be able to attract increased sponsorship next year, it was an aim of the event to boost its sponsorship base.

"We're certainly hopeful that there will be increasing private support. A mix is the healthiest - that's what we're striving for," he said.

The film festival is organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach).

Eissa Saif Al Mazrouei, the director of special projects at Adach, said the fact the festival was attracting more sponsors was attributable to its performance in previous years.

"The exposure of the festival through the last couple of years has made a difference," he said. "The events in Abu Dhabi deserve some sponsoring."

Mr Al Mazrouei declined to specify what proportion of the festival's budget came from sponsorship.

The two executives were speaking at the official unveiling of the programme for the festival.

More than 80 feature films will be shown at the festival, including the political thriller The Ides of March, directed by and starring George Clooney. The festival received more than 3,000 submissions - 1,000 more than last year.

The Emirati feature film Sea Shadow, which was backed by the Abu Dhabi film fund Imagenation, is one of eight world premieres at the festival. Imagenation is part of Abu Dhabi Media.

This month it emerged that two Hollywood films in which Imagenation is listed as a co-producer, in conjunction with its international partners, had hit the top of the box office charts in the US.

The success of Contagion, a thriller starring Matt Damon, and The Help, a tale of the hardships faced by African-American maids during the 1960s, is regarded as a major boost for the UAE's fledgling production industry. Contagion will be screened at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Michael Garin, the chief executive of Image Nation, the overall film company, said the two films had now grossed more than US$200 million (Dh734.6m) at the US box office.

He saidthe fact the Abu Dhabi Film Festival had attracted more funding was "evidence that the sector is expanding".

"The growth of the sector attracts sponsors, because now they're getting a return. It's a marketing decision," said Mr Garin.

"Part of the reason that is happening is the synergies between the organisations."

bflanagan@thenational.ae