Coming attraction: local fare

Fox exec says international audiences eager for more stories about home

While Hollywood blockbusters will always have their place, international audiences are increasingly hungry for authentic local films in their own languages, Fox Filmed Entertainment head Jim Gianopulos told Arab and international filmmakers Monday in Abu Dhabi.

Delivering a keynote address at the second annual Circle Conference — an offshoot of the Middle East International Film Festival, which kicks off Friday — Gianopulos said that forming local partnerships is key to Fox's efforts to help filmmakers bring their visions to audiences.

"To build on this success, we are ramping up our activities in local markets with the establishment of division dedicated to local production in international markets," he said, referencing Fox International Prods., a unit launched in May.

Gianopulos said the international boxoffice has grown 76% in five years, from $9.6 billion in 2002 to $16.9 billion in 2007. And the UAE has seen an increase of 203% ($2.5 million to $7.6 million).

"As world economies continue to grow and invest in their media infrastructure, audiences will have greater access to a wider array of creative content, and these numbers will only grow larger," he added.

Launched last year as a section of the inaugural MEIFF, the Film Financing Circle — now abbreviated to the Circle — is an initiative of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.

"We set up to provide year-round programs to grow the film industry in Abu Dhabi and become a conduit for industry representatives from Hollywood, Europe and Asia to meet emerging filmmakers in the Middle East," Circle director Adrienne Briggs said.

Also in town for the conference, Spike Lee presented awards to 10 emerging Arab filmmakers at a poolside ceremony at Abu Dhabi's exclusive Shangri-La Hotel. He will chair a master class tonight.

Earlier in the day, a panel of international filmmakers and executives will discuss Middle East filmmaking issues including co-productions and global distribution.

Antonio Banderas will chair another group Wednesday before presenting the Circle's closing-night awards that evening.

Other Circle events include the Asada Programme, which teaches emerging talent in the UAE capital about structure and script development, and an Interactive Media Circle, which focuses on new-media technology.

The second Middle East International Film Festival runs Friday-Oct. 19. (partialdiff)
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