The Gulf Film Festival was an impressive attempt on the part of the Government of Dubai to provide Middle East filmmakers with a platform to showcase their talent.
While it was evident that there was a lot of filmmaking talent in the region, it also made viewers painfully cognizant of the fact that much of this talent would come to nought if there were no schools to nurture it and no sufficient funding to back good scripts with high-quality equipment, acting talent and professional crew.
No doubt, the cinema movement or, should I say, the digital filmmaking movement is on in the Gulf countries. But of what use are shaky shorts and films sans dialogue in an age, where we have put behind us mime and silent movies and are looking at very sophisticated story telling techniques that marry talent, 35 mm and new editing skills to make commercially-viable cinema?
Added to this, there was just a handful of films made on 35 mm at the festival.
Most filmmakers here seem to be shying away from using 35 mm and one can see why. With no financial backing to experiment with 35 mm and no formal education in filmmaking or lighting techniques, how can we blame self-schooled amateur filmmakers for sticking to digital cameras as they can see what they are shooting.
But here again, most filmmakers have used either a PD 150 (yes, it still exists) or an entry-level digital camera like the HDV, and the output is, in most cases, amateurish. The saving grace in some of these films was the story line.
Perhaps the more sophisticated of the screenings were animations that did not have to rely on lighting techniques, star actors or even dialogue. But even these lacked finesse.
One thing was certain at the festival. Aspiring filmmakers unanimously expressed their desire for formal schooling in filmmaking, and they wanted these schools to be available here in the Middle East.
While there are plenty of investors in the realty sector, there are very few for the reel world. We hope investors looking for new ventures will sniff an opportunity here and create a genuinely attractive and government-subsidised film school to nurture both local filmmaking and acting talent.
Vijaya Cherian is the editor of Digital Studio.