Documentaries emerging at Dubai fest



DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The whole, as the saying goes, is equal to the sum of its parts. Making up a valuable part of the Dubai International Film Festival's whole this year is the emerging art of the documentary, with the form adding a sense of variety and depth alongside the usual slice of fiction features on offer.

One man better placed than most to cast a critical eye over DIFF's contribution to the documentary genre is Sean Farnel, director of programming for North America's largest documentary film festival, Hot Docs. He's in Dubai to act as consultant to the festival's budding documentary filmmakers.

"It's my first time here," Farnel said. "It's obviously a quite different festival experience to what I'm used to on the documentary circuit, but I think the people here really believe in what they're doing. I've been doing meetings all week here, meeting four or five filmmakers a day, and there are some really good projects in the making."

Festival organizers added the Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema to DIFF's program in 2006, and this year's entries from the documentary field, 76, far exceeded the organizers' expectations.

"I think adding an Arab section to the festival last year was really smart," Farnel said. "They really understand the role (of the documentary) here. The great thing about DIFF is that they've found a place in being a gateway to the Arab film world.

"What they're doing with the industry office is really encouraging, with the panels and consultations and pitching things, it has all hugely helped the local film production develop," he said.