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A look back on Dubai Film Market

Dubai Film Market

The fifth Dubai International Film Festival held in December 2008 introduced an important new component, the Dubai Film Market. To date Dubai has been among the Emirates the fastest growing tourist and business destination and has invested billions of dollars into establishing a state of the art communications and media infrastructure. This includes a film sector for which the Dubai Film Festival and the Dubai Film Market are essential ingredients, not to speak of the imminent opening in Dubai of the largest film studio in the middle east region.
As distinct from other Film market such as the European Film Market during the berlinale, Dubai’s new market was rather relaxed and given the use of the latest exhibition technology, Cinetech, most users friendly. Further exhibitors were not obliged to rent at normally great expense the customary stands to show their productions. Rather they relied on the digital interactive market set up which permitted on demand screening of a digital library of 211 films , mostly of 2008 vintage, and instant internet communication with distributors and other rights holders. Of these titles 136 were featured also at the Film Festival (Premium Content), 52 were ‘marfket recommended’ and 25 originated in the Gulf states.
A market lounge permitted networking among market attendees. 444 professionals registered for the market where more than 1300 individual screenings took place. Features produced in the middle east including Palestine were clearly the most popular ones, though 131 of the submitted films originated in other areas. Thus POMEGRANATS AND MYRRH (Palestine), MASQUERADES (Algeria/France), CASA NEGRA (Morocco), BLACK NATION (Canada/Sweden), and my favorite the superb EYE OF THE SUN (Egypt) were the top five most viewed Cinetech films.
In most film markets screenings area accompanied by interpersonal contacts between buyers and sellers, yet the high tech approach of the Dubai Film Market minimized the need for such meetings and only 68 were arranged over the six day length of the market. It remains to be seen if the relative absence of personal contact between buyers and sellers which the cinetech approach fosters is an impediment to sales. After all in most sales transactions such close contact is considered to be essential. The Dubai Film Market may want to consider to provide space to exhibitors in future editions.

In questionnaires market participants reported 93 potential acquisitions. Among deals in negotiation are the acquisition by the Iranian IRIB TV of numerous Cinetech titles, the purchase of fiction and documentary films by Shorts International (UK) for a program about Arab Cinema, SBS Tele vision ( Australia) pursuit of Cinetch films for a World Cinema Program, and Latido’s (Spain) acquisition of films for theatrical release in Europe.

What sets the Dubai Film Market also apart is the absence of charges for participation and entries of films. Accreditation was free whereas for example a fee of $375 has to be paid for a badge to the 2009 European Film Market. Another striking point about the market is that numerous participants apparently attended as guests of official agencies, that is the Dubai Film Market, the Dubai Film Connection, and the Dubai Film Festival, thus had their lodging and transportation paid for. I could not get exact figures yet in other film markets one rarely comes across individuals who come as paid guests. On the other hand, starting a film market requires initially a generous hospitality to leave an imprint, though eventually chargers will be necessary. After all, what one has to pay for is taken more seriously.
My next Dubai Market piece will feature an interview with its director Ziad Yaghi

Claus Mueller
New York Correspondent

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