Gulf Films chief tops A-list

As in the Arabic cinema world's most influential movers and shakers

Salim Ramia, chairman of Dubai-based Gulf Films, again tops the list of the 50 most powerful people in Arab cinema published by Cairo-based Good News Cinema, the Middle East's most influential movie magazine.

However, Ramia, who is Lebanese and distributes more than 200 films across the region each year, is not popular with some in the industry, Alaa Karkouti, Good News' editor and publisher, said Thursday.

"Ramia's not well liked because he often refuses to distribute Arabic films," said Karkouti, who compiles the list based on criteria including the number of projects each person has going, the number of those distributed outside his or her country and the tangible effect they've had on Arab film production.

Most names on the list are not well-known publicly but have a strong influence on moviemakers and moviegoers alike, said Karkouti, noting that the top three are unchanged from 2008.

After Ramia comes Ahmad Golchein, an Iranian who, in addition to working with Ramia, runs a company distributing Iranian and Indian films across the Middle East. Holding at No. 3 is Abdulhamid Juma, chairman of the Dubai International Film Festival, which held its fifth edition last month.

Middle East International Film Festival boss Mohamed Khalaf Almazroui, of Abu Dhabi Heritage and Culture, moved up one spot from 2008 to No. 4, while King Mohamed VI of Morocco rounds out the top five.

The only head of state on the list, Morocco's king is supervising the growth of his country's cinema industry and doing so with an open mind, Karkouti said, pointing to his funding of Laila Keelani's 2008 doc "Our Forbidden Places," about Morocco's prisons.

"Not so long ago, this was unheard of in the Arab world — the government funding a film about the state's dark past," Karkouti said. (partialdiff)