A dustup over Dubai fest

Ex-DIFF chief sues current execs

Former Dubai International Film Festival chief Neil Stephenson filed a $5 million defamation lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court against two of the festival's senior officials, claiming they forced him out and ruined his reputation by branding him an "Arab hater."

The lawsuit accuses DIFF chair Abdulhamid Juma and managing director Shivani Pandya of defamation, intentional interference of contractual relations, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy for their alleged roles in ousting Stephenson from his spot as founder and CEO of the festival, the fourth edition of which is now under way.

Stephenson claims Juma and Pandya issued news releases in April stating he was a "racist, an 'Arab hater' and that he mistreated all Arab and Egyptian guests who attended the first three editions of the festival and falsely accusing Stephenson of lying in connection with his actual role in DIFF."

The news releases came out just before a conference Stephenson held in Cairo to discuss his ouster. He claims his reputation has been ruined as a result.

Juma and Pandya were in Dubai and could not be reached for comment.

Although Juma and Pandya are based in the Middle Eastern country, the lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles because Stephenson claims both execs regularly travel to the city for business visiting studio lots and to attend film industry events like the Golden Globes.