x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE filmmakers show off reel talents to Berlin Film Festival

Chosen five will represent UAE film industry in exchange project with European producers.

Butheina Hamed Kazim is one of the filmmakers who is being sent to Berlin with the ADFC.
Butheina Hamed Kazim is one of the filmmakers who is being sent to Berlin with the ADFC.

ABU DHABI // Five filmmakers will head to the Berlin Film Festival this weekend as part of an exchange programme with an association of influential independent producers.

The initiative by Abu Dhabi Film Commission (ADFC) is part of an agreement made last year to create as many co-production opportunities as possible between the Emirati and European film industries.

During the five-day programme that starts on Friday, the filmmakers will meet producers from across Europe in one-on-one meetings as well as group settings. They will also be able to pitch their films to sales agents from around the world.

David Shepheard, the director of ADFC, said the people heading to Berlin were "very active" in the industry and the film commission was making efforts to link them with well-established members of the European Producers Club (EPC). Producers from 15 countries across Europe belong to the EPC and members came to the Circle Conference in Abu Dhabi last October.

Mr Shepheard said he was confident the five filmmakers would achieve rapid and fruitful results.

"We are concentrating on promoting [the filmmakers] as talent from the UAE and we expect to get co-production projects off the ground quickly, there should be some for 2011," he said.

Butheina Hamed Kazim, who produced the film Letters to Palestine, a documentary about oral letters sent to the Palestinian people from Emiratis and UAE residents, is one of the participants. She said working alongside the producers would be an invaluable experience.

"It is a huge honour personally to be able to represent the UAE in a group of hugely talented individuals in Europe," she said, "but professionally it is also a fantastic opportunity."

She said the film commission had gone "above and beyond" in setting up the exchange programme.

"Effectively, they are putting emerging UAE filmmakers on a global platform," she said.

Amina Dasmal, another Emirati who will be going to the German capital, described the programme as showing strong commitment to the burgeoning Emirati film industry.

Ms Dasmal, who runs her own production company, Alcove Entertainment, said it sent "an important message" to the film industry.

"By supporting individuals like us through the education process shows the entities in the UAE are being active and not passive in their support. I hope it extends to building the careers of emerging talent."

Eva Star Sayre, the American business director for Veritas Films that made the documentary Teta Alf Marra about an 80-year-old woman who hadn't left her Beirut apartment since the death of her husband 20 years prior, is another of the participants.

She said having the five representatives at the Berlin festival, also known as the Berlinale, would be vital to the commercial future of the Emirati film industry.

"The Berlinale is basically like a huge trade show taking place across the whole city over the course of a week and a half," she said.

"It is very important for us to be there to open the challenge of funding and distribution. We are all looking to bring Arabic films out to a wider audience."

The other two participants will be Nawaf al Janahi, whose first feature-length film, The Circle, played at many international film festivals, and Tim Smythe, who runs his own production company, Filmworks, and is serving as co-producer for the upcoming Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, part of which was shot in Dubai.

The ADFC plans to take another group of filmmakers with them to Cannes in May.

aseaman@thenational.ae