Former Dubai Film Festival Head Launches Middle East Film Consultancy Venture

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Shivana Pandya Malhotra

Shivani Pandya Malhotra has teamed with Emirati director Mohammed Saeed Harib on NearEast Entertainment, which hopes to support Arab cinema and support studios with their regional releases.

Shivani Pandya Malhotra, the former managing director of the Dubai International Film Festival, has teamed with Emirati director Mohammed Saeed Harib to launch consultancy film NearEast Entertainment.

The new venture, which was announced at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt, will be based in Dubai and aimed at serving the Middle East and North Africa, providing services to the film industry, alongside TV, music, arts and live event sectors. 

NearEast hopes to support Arab cinema by helping regional filmmakers secure financing, build connections with industry professionals and assist with publicity to give local titles a global audience. The company is also looking to support studios with their MENA theatrical releases. 

Pandya Malhotra was managing director of the Dubai Film Festival from its launch in 2004 until the shock announcement in April that the event, arguably the region's most important film date on the calendar, was shuttering after 14 years.

Alongside Pandya Malhotra, NearEast will reunite a number of former Dubai fest execs, including Jane Williams, Mahsa Motamedi, Zeina Sfeir, Ben Amy and Antoine Khalife, who together bring over 20 years of experience. 

"NearEast Entertainment is born out of a passion to celebrate film and culture and with a vision to support the rapidly evolving media and entertainment industry in the GCC," said Pandya Malhotra. "There is currently a gap in the market both in the UAE and the wider Arab world which Near East Entertainment can fulfill with excellent personal and professional connections within Hollywood, the Indian and the Arab film industries. We are in a prime position to develop cutting-edge events and initiatives, further encourage global recognition for Arab cinema, bring a wider selection of entertainment to local audiences, support the international film industry to further strengthen their presence in the region and navigate the landscape and create new collaborations to bring exciting opportunities to the UAE."

Added Harib, best known for the animated TV show Freej, "Local audiences are hungry for compelling content, events and initiatives from home and abroad and we are keen to bring our expertise to global entertainment brands, filmmakers and industry professionals to deliver stand-out content and cutting-edge events to the region. The future is bright for the media and entertainment industry in the Arab world and I believe Near East Entertainment can be right at the centre where that all fuses together."