x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

DIFF splices four of its film services into one unit

Combined centre to aid film-makers covers cinema production from script to screen.

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has launched a networking service to help nurture of the region's fledgling movie industry. The Dubai Film Market aims to connect established and aspiring film-makers, distributors and financiers in what the DIFF claims will "create unprecedented access to film and talent from the Middle East, Asia and Africa".

The initiative creates an umbrella for four existing services provided by the DIFF in what it says covers "every aspect of cinema, from conceptualisation to distribution". The four services are: the Dubai Film Connection, a market for co-productions; the Dubai Film Forum, a centre for funding, workshops, and networking; Enjaaz, for post-production support; and Dubai Filmmart, which covers content trade, acquisition and distribution.

Combining the four services under one umbrella is more than just a rebranding exercise, said Shivani Pandya, the managing director of the DIFF. "What we're trying to do is make sure it's a very comprehensive platform, from script to screen, with all aspects of film-making covered," Ms Pandya said. Among the services offered, scriptwriters will be able come to the DIFF for assistance in having their films shot, produced and distributed.

"It's making sure people who come in ? get a chance to have their film taken care of at all levels," said Ms Pandya. "It will make a huge difference ? we've created a lot of collaboration." While the Dubai Film Market is open to movie industry figures from all over the world, the film development aspects are specifically geared towards Arab film makers. "We are targeting Arab film makers ? those who are looking to have their film picked up by international sales agents, distributors and broadcasters," said Ms Pandya.

Most of the services are available only around the time of the December festival, but some assistance, such as with the securing distribution rights, is available all year. Ziad Yaghi, the director of Dubai Filmmart, said the rebranded service would be "much more efficient" than the four separate units were. "It's going to be about sharing, using and optimising all the resources we have," Mr Yaghi said. "We take care of every single guest from A to Z."

Another aspect of the service will allow directors who screen a film at the DIFF to automatically receive access to distribution, funding and networking opportunities. "The new Dubai Film Market will allow DIFF to live up to its role as a catalyst for regional growth and enhanced global integration," said Masoud Amralla al Ali, the artistic director of the DIFF. "The new framework offers a single space for industry professionals from Europe, the Far East and the Americas to interact with the Middle East, south Asia and Africa, positioning DIFF as the place to be in our industry," Mr al Ali added.

Local film-makers have welcomed the move. "Anything that expands the potential for young film-makers has to be seen in a positive light," said Tim Smythe, the chief executive of the Dubai production house Filmworks, which worked on the Emirati film City of Life and the locally shot sections of the Hollywood films The Kingdom and Syriana. Mr Smythe said the previous DIFF initiatives had helped in "getting awareness and distribution" for City of Life. He said making the units one package was a good idea.

"They're putting all their services under one umbrella ? this is a focused area that industry professionals are looking at," he said. DIFF 2010, the seventh edition of the festival, runs from December 12 to 19. Fifteen Arab film projects will be shown at the event, the organisers said. Over the past three years, the Dubai Film Connection arm has assisted 46 film projects, with more than 13 films completed and an another nine nearing completion, the DIFF said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae