The Abu Dhabi Film Festival to start on October 14 is one of the few of its kind in the world that gives as much importance to shorts as it does to features. The festival, which has just revealed part of its international lineup, includes a Competition section for shorts. The full list will be announced soon.
The festival believes that short moviemaking is a vibrant part of the industry serving as a kind of laboratory where young directors can train, and established ones experiment with form and content.
"Short films are more than just an exercise for beginners, although that is one of their essential functions, of course,” said Peter Scarlet, Executive Director of the Festival. “Above all, they should be seen as a fully-fledged cinematic art form, which engenders particularly imaginative kinds of storytelling. Short movies offer a level of artistic freedom that is irresistible, even to famous filmmakers and actors. The fact that many of them are more than happy to get involved in shorts for next to no financial reward is a telling sign of what an intriguing format this is.”
For the first time this year, the long-running Emirates Competition (formerly Emirates Film Competition) will be presented under the banner of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Short fiction features and documentaries under 35 minutes from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as those with a strong focus on the region’s culture or history, will compete for the Black Pearl Awards with attractive cash prizes.
Of the 47 short movies in Competition, 20 are narrative films, eight documentaries, nine student narrative movies and 10 student documentaries. The selection features 15 world premieres and 14 of the participating helmers are women.
The Abu Dhabi Film Festival (formerly called Middle East International Film Festival) was established in 2007 to help create a lively cinema movement in the Gulf. The indications are that this Festival has grown more significant than the Dubai Film Festival, the other major cinema event in the region. What is noteworthy about Abu Dhabi – fast becoming the cultural capital of the Arab world -- is that it provides a riveting platform where local movies can be watched along with those from the rest of the world. A lovely mix of cultures emerges from the art of cinema.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has been covering major movie festivals across continents, and will write on the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for Hindustan Times.)