The sixth edition of the Festival, which is the annual celebration of Gulf cinema, is the largest yet, bringing some of the best and most talked about new films to the UAE, an impressive 169 quality films from 43 countries, of which 93 originate from within the GCC. The line-up will include 78 world premieres, 15 international premieres, 42 Middle East premieres and 6 GCC premieres.
Alongside the screenings there will be awards, master classes, networking sessions and a whole host of directors and producers in town all eager to share their latest work.
It will continue until April 17 at Grand Cinemas Dubai Festival City, with all screenings free to the public.
At the opening ceremony, GFF will present Mohammed Jaber with a lifetime achievement award along with a stunning watch created by the Festival’s Official Time Partner, IWC Schaffhausen, in recognition of the many accomplishments of Kuwaiti playwright, actor and screenwriter, a fixture of the Khaleeji cultural scene since the 1960’s.
Abdulhamid Juma, Festival Chairman said: “Our esteemed honoree this year is one of the artists who established the groundwork for the exciting, dynamic film community developing here in the GCC.
We at GFF are working year on year to build on this legacy and to accommodate the astronomical growth of the film industry in the Gulf, from promoting our established artists to developing up and coming talents”.
GFF Festival Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said: “Each year our high expectations of audience turnout, enthusiasm and energy are far exceeded, and we are confident that 2013 will be no different. From increased industry activities to more free public screenings, we have done our utmost to welcome film lovers and industry professionals alike from the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.”
The Opening Night film will be Wadjda, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia by Haifaa Al-Mansour, who will be present. A project that began at GFF’s Script Market in 2008, Wadjda has gone on to capture the hearts of audiences and critics alike across the world with its simple story of a determined little Saudi girl who goes to great lengths to buy her own bicycle despite possible social repercussions. The film has won numerous awards, including 3 awards at the prestigious Venice Film Festival as well as the Muhr Arab Feature and Best Actress awards at the Dubai International Film Festival in December 2012.
Ms. Al-Mansour said: “It has been an exciting year, not just for everyone who worked with me on Wadjda but also for GCC cinema; audiences around the world are receptive to our vision and perspective, and our journey with Wadjda shows that our stories are capable of speaking to audiences around the world. Although our industry is just beginning, here in the Gulf we have so many supportive initiatives like GFF, DIFF and a broad variety of other training programs, to help us begin the journey. I am very proud and touched to be back at the Gulf Film Festival with this film, and am looking forward to celebrating all of the films of my fellow filmmakers from around the Gulf this week.”
Stars who are due to be in attendance include: Haifaa Al Mansour, Mohammad Jaber, Yousry Nasrallah, Ossama Fawzi, Saeed Salmeen Al Muri, Waleed Al Shehhee, Mohammad Hassan Ahmed, Majid Abdulrazak, Abdulla Abdulaziz, Ali Al Tamimi, Fatma Al Hosaini, Aalaa Shaker, Mohammed Farasha, Sami Kaftan, Habib Ghuloom, Huda Salah, Mansoor Al Feeli, Jamal Salim, Sanaa Baker Yunus, Khalid Albannai, Hayat Alfahad, Dawood Hussain, Khalid Albreeki, Zahra Alkharji, Abdulmohsen Alnemer, Zahra Arafat, Ali Mostafa, Nayla Al Khaja, Karzan Kader, Jabir Nagmoush, Mohamed Al Amri, Raziqa Al Taresh, Sultan Al Neyadi, Saif Al Ghanem, Hassan Rajab, Abdulrahman Al Zarouni, Mariam Sultan, Abdullah Abu Abed, Abdullah Saleh, Ahmed Al Jasmi, Ali Khamis, Ashjan, Ashwaq, Badriah Ahmed, Huda Alghanem, Huda Al-Khatib, Ibrahim Salim, Ibrahim Jumaa, Ismaeel Abdullah, Marwan Abdullah Saleh, Maree Al Halyan, Naji Al-Hai, Omar Ghobash, Sougha, Mohamed Al Sairafi, Shahed Al Yaseen, Mohamoud Bu Sheahry, Jasem Al Nabhan, Abdelrahman Al Aqel, Aseel Omran, Mohsen Al Qaffas, Ahmed Al Salman, Khadija Al-Salami, Ahd, Abdullah Hassan Ahmed, Abdulla Aljunaibi, Tareq Al Zamel, Mohammed Al-Otaiba, Abdulla Abdulaziz, Badriah Al Bishr, Bassam Al Thawadi, Nawaf Najem, Khalid Al Mahmood.
GFF audiences will be able to choose from several carefully curated programming segments, including competition films vying for significant cash prizes in four prestigious competitions: Gulf Films, both feature-length and short films; Gulf Students’ Shorts; and International Shorts, which recognizes work of exceptional talent from around the world.
Besides the competition films, the festival offers three ‘Official Selection’ programmes: Lights, an array of out of competition short films from some of the GCC’s most dynamic talents; Intersections, which favours bold subjects and stylized films from around the world; and Films for Children, a wonderful selection of animated and short films for young audiences.
The GFF will continue its important work of developing the GCC film industry. The inaugural Gulf Film Market, which will run from April 14 to 17, offers several initiatives for GCC nationals in the film business at all levels. The Gulf Film Forum offers an array of discussion panels, ‘how-to’ sessions and networking events, and two funding initiatives for regional artists, while the second annual Gulf Script Market will connects the region’s best scriptwriters with directors and producers.
Reporter: Thomson George
Photographer: Eshan Madadi