Dubai: The Dubai International Film Festival was a great platform for countries that do not produce too many films, to market Arab cinema and also make Dubai a film hub, its chairman Abdulhamid Juma says.
"Countries which have lesser productions like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore...in Africa we have Sudan, Nigeria...We really wanted to bring those films, give awards because we want to think of Dubai as a destination, when they produce films," Juma told IANS in an interview.
"I think the response has been tremendous. In 2004, we had a very clear vision of what the festival should do and achieve. We still have that vision, which I think is now getting the best response from the rest of the world. We are focusing on a lot of things, which is helping the UAE and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) filmmakers to take part in this festival," said Juma.
"Dubai has been always been the hub for trade, hub for tourism, hub for business and so now we want it to be hub for films," he added.
Among the 157 films screened at the festival that concluded Sunday, 72 were Arabic, setting a new benchmark in the growth of quality films in the Middle East.
"Well a film industry doesn`t grow in one or two years. It took Hollywood and other established film industries 100 years...and in seven years we can`t claim we are going to be Hollywood, but there is a beautiful sign. Out of 157 films, 72 were Arab films.
"There has been improvement. There are 14 Emirati films, out of which 12 had their world premiere...All these signs are telling us that we are going in the right direction. Filmmakers are taking more interest, making more films. But we can`t forget that we are still at the beginning," Juma pointed out.
The 157 films at the festival were from 57 countries from South America to South Korea, apart from the Middle East. The event had a robust competition segment, a thriving film market and lots of public interaction.
Juma said the Dubai festival could inspire people to start more such events in the UAE.
"I think Dubai has always been the landmark not only in the film festival, but everything we do, Dubai has always been the leader. We don`t mind people taking this initiative. We are happy that there are other film festivals now in Doha and Abu Dhabi or anywhere else.
"We need help of other nationalities, of other governments, other festivals to make sure this industry is looked after," Juma said.
Asked if Arab films are more culture-centric, the festival chairman said: "Some filmmakers are making films for Arab audiences; some are making them for a world audience... It`s the way the filmmakers are handling the story. Usually, some films are done very, very locally, but they go international."
He admited that the primary vision of the festival was to market Arab films.
"We really want to leverage on Dubai`s strength as a marketing mechanism to take Arab films beyond their boundaries and also bring other films, not really the mainstream films, mostly independent and regional films of the Arab world and Dubai in particular," said Juma.