Dubai Film and TV Commission unveils white paper in partnership with Oliver Wyman

Today was a hectic day and while fluttering between work, the women’s exhibition at DWTC and Christmas cakes at Bloomsbury’s, I was not able to be part of the DIFF events. Especially one with Dubai Film and TV Commission (DFTC) and its partnership with Oliver Wyman, who today released a white paper examining key areas for growth and investment in the Middle East and North Africa media production market.

The white paper addresses recommendations on how countries in the region can build world-class media ecosystems. DFTC commissioned the white paper to help inform its strategic approach to developing a robust media industry.

The white paper, entitled Opportunities and Challenges in the Middle East and North Africa Media Production Market, revealed that Arabic content production is still below its fullest potential, and presents the biggest opportunity for growth in the Middle East media production market.  It found that although Arabic is the sixth world language in terms of GDP, there is still a significant lack of Arabic media content. Between 2005 and 2010, the Middle East contributed only 0.72% of the films produced in the world. Furthermore, Arabic film and TV production represent only 0.03% of GDP in the Middle East and North Africa – well below comparable markets elsewhere.

Several countries within the MENA region are taking the initiative to boost and strengthen their media industries, particularly in the Gulf.  The white paper revealed Dubai’s strong potential to become a global media production hub meeting the highest industry standards, thanks to its focus on building the required production infrastructure and services that are fundamental to a vibrant media ecosystem.

The case study on Dubai highlights the emirate’s achievements to date in the areas of production infrastructure, such as the state-of-the-art sound stages at Dubai Studio City and the creation of the Dubai Film and TV Commission, which provides the necessary framework to ease the production process for filmmakers. The paper also underlined the competitive advantages of Dubai’s diverse locations, city infrastructure and safety.

Among these findings, three key actions stood out which could dramatically change Dubai’s global position and help take it to the next level: improving access to talent by offering longer-term residency to production crew; developing more formalised film incentives; and improving TV audience measurement across the region. According to the paper, if Dubai develops and implements such changes, its position as an internationally renowned media production hub would strengthen and progress dramatically.

When Monaliza Smiled – DIFF impresses diva

Loved 'When Monaliza Smiled'

Loved ‘When Monaliza Smiled’

One of the nicest movies I have seen this month is in fact part of DIFF 2012 in Arabic, ‘When Monaliza Smiled’. This Arabic movie (with subtitles of course) is a  love story between Monaliza, a young Jordanian woman, and Hamdi, an Egyptian office boy with the cutest smile J. The story is touching as its shown in parallel with other related stories that reveal some very real human feelings, situations, realities often similar to what people endure in many other countries except that this is in Jordan.

I met the director at Mall of the Emirates, Fadi G.Haddad who mentioned the movie was filmed entirely in Jordan. I recognized elements of the views from my visit to Amman and how much character some of the areas in the city had. He has done an amazing job.

The actress who plays Monaliza is gorgeous even though initially she rarely smiles. She works in a government office, where she meets Hamdi and together they dream of a life straight out of the romantic movies of the past as we see scenes within the film with Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama… Their fantasy is challenged as they’re surrounded by inquistive individuals, who impose restrictions typical of Amman’s society which to be honest is similar in many Muslim communities as I have been told and witnessed in Fiji  and Malaysia.

I loved the fun-loving nature of Hamdi in contrast to Monaliza and it was nice to see their relationship blossom as Hamdi shows her a life from a new perspective that is about trying new things, visiting new places etc. I guess we meet many Hamdi’s in our day-to-day life – young men who live away from their home to support their families, the challenges they face and their love for life where they take joy in the simplest of things that we ignore because of the rat race. It was also beautiful to see the story of Monaliza’s neighbor who lost her husband who was never found but every day she washes his clothes, prepares dinner and makes herself beautiful in the event that he will turn up at her door one day, unexpected.

I loved the movie for the purity of the romance, the way the characters enjoyed the ordinary things in life, the family obligations we often get caught up in, the love we wait for despite knowing that it may be in vain and so much more that it is hard to do justice in a few paragraphs.

If you do see ‘When Monaliza Smiled’ during DIFF, let me know your thoughts on the movie.

Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) line-up for 2012

One of the main attractions for DIFF other than watching cool movies we otherwise don’t get to see is getting up, close and personal with people we either idolize or just admire for the many roles they portray on and behind the silver screen. I met some awesome people last year. And from the moment I did a course locally with Icon Art Productions who later inspired me to enhance my writing skills to script writing/editing under Universal Film Makers as a fun hobby, the admiration for people working behind the screens has grown two-fold.

International celebrities flying into Dubai this December include: Academy Award winners Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Livia Firth, Frieda Pinto, Rooney Mara, Kirsten Davis, Amr Waked, Bryan Ferry, Suraj Sharma, Steve Oram, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jessica Mauboy, Shravanthi Sainath and Adil Hussain and Erica Linz.

A-list Arab celebrities gracing the red-carpet include: Laila Eloui, Nelly, Khaled El Nabawy, Ezzat Abu Ouf, Salah El Sadany, Hassan Hosny, Ghassan Masoud, Hany Ramzy, Mohamed Saad, Ahmed Rateb, Ghada Adel, Ragaa Al Gedawy, Sherine Adel, Maxime Khalil, Yosra Ellozy, Amir Karara, Sirine Abdel Nour, Nermine El Fikky, Caroline Khalil, Magdy El Hawary, Samer Ismael, Mehyar Khadour and Mounzer Rayhana.

And stars flocking to DIFF from the GCC include: Haya Abdulsalam, Jushoon, Ibrahim Al Habri, Souad Ali, Abdul Mohsen El Nemer, Salah Al-Mulla, Habib Ghuloom, Jaber Nagmoush, Abdulla Boushiri, Shimaa Ali, Zahra Arafat, Fatima Abdulrahim, Abdul Aziz Jassim, Mansour Al Feli, Mahmoud Bou Shahri, Fatma Alsafi, Yacoub Alsalili, and Basem Abdulamir. In addition Ahmad Al Braiky, Hamad Al Omani, Asmahan, Jamal Al Radhan, Yacoub Abdalla, Somoud, Abeer Al Jundi, Faisal Alamery, Aseel Omran, Buthaina Al Raisi, Reem Arahma and Haifa Hussein.

Audiences will also have the unique opportunity to meet established filmmakers along with exciting new talent including: Wayne Blair, Khairy Beshara, Abdulatif Abdulhamid, Nour Eddine Lakhmari, Haiffa Al Masour, Stephan Archinard, Brian A. Miller, Brillante Mendoza, Saul Williams, Andrew Adamson, Aron Warner, Feng Xiaogang, Takashi Miike, Nishtha Jain and Mostofa Sarwar Farooki.

The prestigious Muhr Awards have gone from strength to strength and this year will showcase a record number of films – an impressive 83 films will compete for over US$575, 000 in prize money across three categories – Muhr Emirati, Muhr Arab and Muhr AsiaAfrica. The line-up this year was selected from 2,100 submissions from 115 countries and is considered to the most remarkable, competitive and diverse selection to date. Arabic features will also be eligible for a variety of prestigious global awards including the FIPRESCI International Prize of the Critics Award.

DIFF’s outstanding competition juries this year consists of world-famous filmmakers, industry decision makers and onscreen talent who will come together to help judge the Muhr Arab, Asia Africa Awards include: Michael Apted, Kerry Fox, Bruno Barreto, Chang Dong Lee, Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, and Nayla Al Khaja.

DIFF will also present its Lifetime Achievement Awards to veteran Egyptian actor Mahmoud Abdul Aziz and prolific British director Michael Apted, who have both made commendable contributions to the world of cinema and inspired countless of people through their body of work….get ready for a week of great entertainment in Dubai.

DIFF Sets The Stage For A Thrilling Week Of Films and Events

With Ayesha as DIFF gets launched by the seaside 🙂

It’s that time of the year when DIFF reveals the entertainment bonanza they have in store for us. Notice how I have refrained from saying time of the month – I thought it was safer since in PMS mode, I have bitten off even heads this week of people who have crossed the line with me one way or another.

This year, DIFF has over 160 films from 61 countries, in 43 languages featuring 52 World Premieres, 14 International Premieres, 73 Middle East Premieres and 17 GCC Premieres.

DIFF embarks on 8 days of the very best of film, industry events and star-gazing red-carpets with Academy Award Winners Ang Lee’s long-awaited 3D adaptation of the hugely popular Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi opening the Festival on Sunday, 9th December. This year’s DIFF promises to offer something for everyone, with a selection of diverse films, from sneak previews of giant-budget Hollywood films to independent films that are breaking new ground, films from first-time filmmakers though to the greatest directors of all time.

From December 9 to 16, the Festival’s nightly red carpet gala screenings will see the Arabian premieres of the critically acclaimed film Bekas from Karzan Kadar and the culturally groundbreaking Wadjda by Haiffa Al Mansour. The Cinema of the World galas include some of the most anticipated films of the year including Hitchcock, starring Award Winners Antony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, the 3D adventure Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or masterpiece Amour and the triumphant true story The Sapphires which will close the Festival.

The Gala premiere representing the Asia Africa Programe is World War II Epic Back to 1942 from prolific director Feng Xiaogang. DIFF’s afternoon gala for younger film fans is the World Premiere of the magical adventure Journey to the Christmas Star.

I just got home and started flipping through the programme. Would love to tell you more but after a pretty long and emotionally exhausting day, I think I will offer more information about DIFF in the days to come. Watch this space 🙂