DIFF Daily 2010

Meet the Programmers

Dec 12,2010 - 02:47 PM

ANTONIA CARVER, Arabian Programmes

How would you summarise the past 12 months in Arab cinema?

What’s exciting is to see is a lot of young filmmakers coming up – we received a huge number of quite brilliant short films from students, which bodes so well for the future; the Muhr feature film competition this year includes many first and second-time filmmakers. We have strong, independent, auteur voices coming through, filmmakers that are young but confident enough to play with genres and styles, and produce really original filmmaking, both in documentaries and features. We’ve also noticed an increase in films coming out of Iraq – a huge diversity of films, and subjects, from Iraqi Kurdistan right down to the south.

What are the particular criteria films must achieve for you to consider them for DIFF?

The Arab films are selected by a team of three and we discuss every film in detail. We watch hundreds of films each year and aim to see the entire output from the region if we can. There are the obvious things – that the film has an Arab director or a connection to the Arab world through storyline or subject matter. Sometimes a film might be not be completely polished, but it has a great story, and we think our audience will find it compelling viewing. And then there are the more intangible elements - integrity, passion, vision, perfectionism. We try to find gems for both local audiences and the international industry guests, to maintain DIFF’s position as the ‘home of Arab cinema’ and a place of discovery.

NASHEN MOODLEY, AsiaAfrica Programmes

How would you summarise the past 12 months in Asia-Africa cinema?

Like the industry elsewhere, the last year has been a difficult one for cinema in Asia and Africa, particularly in terms of sales. Still, the levels of production have been high, and we have seen a great number of wonderful films from both continents. It has been a particularly strong year for African cinema, and we are delighted that we have many of these wonderful excellent films at DIFF.

How do you see the results of a dedicated Muhr section for Asian and Africa cinema at DIFF?

Over the years, DIFF has built a very solid reputation across the film world. I think it is known as a festival that cares deeply about films and filmmakers, and as a result we get a great number of submissions each year. Particularly with the competition, the Festival encourages filmmaking in both regions.

What are the particular criteria films must achieve for you to consider them for DIFF?

Each year we look for innovative films that say something about the world; films that are stylistically daring; and we also try to accommodate new talents alongside established masters. Throughout the AsiaAfrica programmes we have great films that are going to delight, shock, thrill and engage audiences.

DOROTHEE WENNER, Celebration of Indian Cinema

How do festivals such as DIFF provide a distinct advantage to Indian filmmakers? How has DIFF benefited Indian cinema, in your view, over the years?

DIFF has a special status amongst international festivals, due to the Gulf being a top market for Indian films. Here, it’s possible to showcase Indian films to a large local audience with a strong interest, appreciation and knowledge of Indian films. For Indian producers, the Festival’s glamour and buzz is the perfect environment in which to release new films and bring stars to the region and as a meeting point for film professionals, it’s the place to discuss and explore immediate and long-term strategies.

How would you summarise the past 12 months in Indian cinema?

Across production centres such as Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Kerala, budgets, topics and production practices vary hugely. But there are some extremely positive market trends. It’s good to see an increase in Bengali production houses, the emergence of a group of enthusiastic Malayalam artist filmmakers uniting for better cinema and so on. Yet, there’s a dark flip-side to some of these trends as well, as commercial pressure taking its toll. I have seen quite a few films in which it was obvious that screenwriters, directors and editors could have achieved much more, had budgets allowed them little more time to work on the product.

MYRNA MAAKARON, Cinema for Children

What are the challenges facing a programmer of children’s films? What particular qualities do you look for in the films you select for DIFF each year?

Looking for good children’s films is not an easy task. Because one often forgets to watch the film as a child would see them. Sometimes I think that a monster might scare them, when actually they ask to see monsters. Or I assume that they might like to identify with some kids who have the same troubles as them in life when they actually ask to see heroes, princesses and dragons. In general, a good children’s film is one that combines a good
story, entertainment, emotions, credibility, fantasy and in some cases, lessons about life…

As a cinema professional based outside the country, how has DIFF advanced cinema for children in the Gulf region since 2004?

DIFF was the first festival in the region to include a children section and introduce workshops related to the films. Talents and guests I have met over the past years are always surprised to see how much quality DIFF offers.

What is your personal highlight of the festival?

What makes me cheerful is the happiness of the younger ones after watching a children’s film, especially when they have the chance to meet the stars! For me also, it’s when I have the time to watch a film, meet my colleagues and the closing ceremony. Every year, DIFF is a very special event!
SHEILA WHITAKER, Cinema of the World

How would you summarise the last 12 months in Cinema of the World?

The last twelve months have seen a resurgence of cinema after something of a drought in the previous year. This resurgence has also produced some very fine examples of filmmaking from ‘The King’s Speech’ to smaller (but no less important) productions such as ‘Tomorrow Will Be Better’ and ‘When We Leave’.

As a cinema professional based outside the country, how do you feel DIFF has advanced cinema in the Gulf region since 2004?

As the pioneer festival in the Gulf, Dubai took on an enormous task in advancing cinema in all its aspects of production, distribution and exhibition. And in this, it has achieved a great deal. Knowledge and expertise has increased amongst young filmmakers who are putting this to good use and distribution and exhibition has broadened in the provision of cinema.

What are the particular criteria films must achieve for you to consider them for DIFF?

One works initially in terms of seeking new films from known directors whose work one admires but aside from that, it is spending many hours viewing films and finding the gems amongst the plethora of titles. As to which films are selected that is relatively straightforward – it is a question of fine filmmaking, in which all the components of a film come together into a coherent and cogent whole.

What is your personal highlight of the Festival?

I love it all.

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