Dubai Film Festival Scraps Major Industry Section, Focuses on Distribution

The Dubai Film Connection co-production platform will not feature in the upcoming 11th edition

Amid talk of budget cuts ahead of its 11th edition, the Dubai International Film Festival has confirmed that it has canned the Dubai Film Connection, the co-production platform that links Arab filmmakers with international producers and funding bodies.

Last year, it doled out some $115,000 to various projects.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, festival managing director Shivani Pandya said that the DFC had been scrapped as part of a major refocus of the entire event. "We’re continually being pressured to make sure we get more for [bang for the] buck," she said, but denied reports that the festival had been downsized.

"Following the decennial edition we have simply revised the format of the festival to heighten the significance placed on its founding principles and bring regional cinema into sharper focus," she added.

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Jane Williams, who helped set up the festival industry program in 2006, will as such not be returning for the next edition of the festival, due to take place Dec. 10-17. "She headed up the DFC, which was our biggest chunk," said Pandya.

Also not returning is the Interchange, the training program set up alongside the Torino Film Lab aimed at building cooperation between European and Arab filmmakers. But festival insiders say that this was simply a result of the three-year contract reaching its end.

As part of the festival’s restructuring, the focus is set to shift from developing Arab films to their distribution and acquisition, notoriously bad in the region and especially in the United Arab Emirates, which is the Middle East’s largest box-office market.

"Films are getting made, but we are looking at having ways of getting them seen," Pandya said, confirming that the festival would be working with local distributors Gulf Film, Vox, Front Row Filmed Entertainment and the Kuwait National Cinema Company.

The arrangement will see each company selecting and securing distribution for at least one Arab title from the festival’s 2014 program, with a deal being arranged between the filmmaker and the distributor using the event as a networking platform.

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Earlier in the year, the festival’s more regionally-focused sister event, the Gulf Film Festival, was pulled just nine days before it was due to start on Apr. 9, again rumored to be due to last-minute purse tightening. It is unknown whether the Gulf Film Festival will return, or whether elements will be merged into the Dubai International Film Festival, which already incorporates the Emirates Film Competition for emerging Gulf directors.

"GFF was set up to essentially give regional filmmakers a platform, and at DIFF itself we’re showing Emirati and Gulf films," says Pandya, adding that a decision on the 2015 edition will be made soon.