Home / HAVE YOUR SAY / Big on names, short on substance?

Big on names, short on substance?

by Aaron Greenwood on Nov 5, 2009

The proliferation of film festivals in the Middle East has successfully turned international attention towards the region's fledgling film production industry.

Yet, despite token headlines in international industry dailies, serious questions remain over what real, lasting benefits these events actually provide the local film production industry.

Certainly, discounting the heyday of the 1970s, the Middle East industry's output cannot compare to established markets like North America, the Asian sub-continent or Europe.

But this should in no way reflect poorly on the number of stories that remain to be told in this region, nor the aspiration of filmmakers to deliver them to local and international markets.

The problem, as always, is that regional film funding schemes have to date failed to deliver on their promise. Some have even turned their attention away from the region in favour of financing substandard Hollywood fare.

The other issue is that most international filmmakers-cum-festival attendees, whose mere presence create headlines internationally, eye the events as little more than an opportunity to enjoy a week-long sanitised version of the Middle East 'experience', while pitching for future production funding from pliable Arab investors.

So what of the future of these events and Middle East film production in general? Is their influence on Arab cinema and film production little more than token? Conversely, which regional film festival in your opinion has best promoted the cause of Arab cinema to date?

Have your say now!


anything set in the desert or with lots of those scenes makes a natural choice for the Middle East. Right?


Readers' Comments

Perry Tanko (Aug 1, 2013) USA

Lots of movies could come...
anything set in the desert or with lots of those scenes makes a natural choice for the Middle East. Right?

Wanita (Aug 4, 2011)

If you want to get read, this is how you slhoud write.

Jonathan Ali Khan (May 5, 2011)
United Arab Emirates

Out of Focus
I agree with Hani. Furthermore, this region is more intrinsically linked to a TV culture than a cinema arts scene. I think the focus should be in promoting and supporting TV content development first and foremost with a gradual shift towards feature legnth cross-over projects in due course. But lets get the 'due course' in first folks! True to form, this region jumped too far too quickly hoping star appeal would somehow compensate for the lack of true substance! When will people learn...content is king! Allways has been, allways will be! If MENA TV channels are not investing in new content development and new ideas, then we need to create other funding sources until such a time as the channels wake up to their responsibilities as true entertainers. Since sponsorship is pretty much dead, the resources available to these film festivals could be better used for documentaries and silver screen content! But then, as a natural history film maker frustrated by the lack of support and interest in this wonderful genre, I might well be biased!

Omar (Nov 5, 2009)
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

why do we need American celebrity endorsements?
I appreciate that the presence of certain US celebrities generate headlines for these festivals, but let's face it, the US shouldn't even really factor in the thinking of film authorities operating here. Outside arthouse cinema, the market for Arab films in America is irrelevant! If they're looking to create a viable and sustainable film industry, these guys would be better off pitching the business to other Arab-speaking or Islamic nations, not established Western markets. A reality check is what's needed.

Abu (Nov 5, 2009)
United Arab Emirates

Gulf film fest gets my vote
It might be more low-key than some of the other festivals, but that's the point isn't it? It simply focuses on the filmmakers rather than American celebrities drafted in for God knows what reason. Great local productions and none of the rubbish hype.

Hani (Nov 5, 2009)
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

Film fund joke
Most of these film funds are just investment schemes they are totally detached from young filmmakers in Middle East. To make more films there needs to be more small grants for the grassroots of the industry. The fests here provide the platform to show your movie, there's just no money to make them in the first place.


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