Making the grade

    ADFF and DIFF help put Arabic content on a global stage
    Roger Field is editor of Digital Studio.
    Roger Field is editor of Digital Studio.


    As Digital Studio went to press the Abu Dhabi Film Festival was in full swing, with Ali Mostafa’s latest feature film, From A to B, shown as the opening premiere.

    The festival had a total of seven world premieres, all of them from the Arab world, including Ali Mostafa’s film. “It was the first time in the festival’s history that we opened with an Emirati film and we are very proud about this landmark event,” said Ali Al Jabri, director of ADFF.

    It was indeed great to see an Emirati feature film opening the UAE capital’s film festival. It not only helped to give Mostafa’s film the local and international attention it deserves, but also serves as a beacon, showing young people in the Gulf interested in entering the industry what can be achieved.

    While coverage of ADFF will have to wait until the December issue, the November issue of Digital Studio does bring you an exclusive interview with Abdulhamid Juma, CEO of Dubai Film Festival (DIFF). Juma, who has headed up DIFF since its inception is a man committed to the UAE’s film industry. He views festivals, whether in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Sharjah, as being an important part of the development of the country’s overall filmmaking ecosystem. But he is also frank in admitting that much work remains to be done, particularly in terms of increasing the distribution of locally produced films, developing a national film fund, and establishing film schools.

    Juma’s optimism about the industry is reassuring, and the Digital Studio team eagerly awaits DIFF, even after preparing to feast on the impressive line-up of film and seminars at ADFF (read the full interview with Juma on page 22 of the digital edition).

    One company that has made serious inroads in helping to develop the wider ecosystem is Dubai-based MBC Group, which last year joined forces with California based Stargate Studios to set up a joint venture called Stargate Middle East. This company is home to one of the region’s biggest virtual studios, and the facility has already been used to create the sets for the historical drama Saraya Abedin. You can read all about the facility and general trends in virtual studios on page 28 of the digital edition.

    While film technology is moving at a swift pace, not everybody is happy with the current order. Douglas Trumbull, the special effects veteran who worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, spoke at IBC in September and made a strong case for doing things differently in terms of making films and showing them. His MAGI system of recording and projecting films has the potential to be revolutionary in a world where most films are still shot at 24 FPS – the same rate as the first “talkie”, The Jazz Singer, which was produced in the 1920s. Check out page 40 of the digital edition to read all about Trumbull’s IBC talk.

    Two videographers who are already used to breaking with conventions are Charles Maxwell and Dan Beecham, who are both underwater filming aficionados. Their 4K footage of marine life off the coast of South Africa is mesmerising, and the pair told Digital Studio the story of how the footage shot (see page 50 of the digital edition).

    As always, enjoy the issue, and please contact at me with any feedback or news.

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