Arab cinema is getting to be hugely appealing to the world audience in recent times. Movies like Theeb, The Valley, The Wanted 18 and Iraqi Odyssey have travelled to major movie festivals across the globe. Naji Abu Nowar's Theeb had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last August-September. And all the four played at Toronto in September.
What is really amazing is that Arab cinema has made such a mark in the face of severe political upheavals in the Middle East. As Intishal Al Timimi, Director of Arabic Programmes at the ongoing Abu Dhabi Film Festival, told the media, with 16 Arab movies in competition, there was a lot of hope despite adversity.
Admittedly, in more peaceful times, the Middle East could have produced many more films. This is particularly the case in countries such as Tunisia, Syria and Egypt, regions best known for their movie-making skills.
Abu Dhabi Festival continues to be one of the most important platforms for Arab cinema, even having an excellent funding programme, Sanad, to help struggling movie-makers. Maybe one can compare Sanad to the National Film Development Corporation of India, whose Film Bazaar at IFFI in Goa has made a significant difference to young men and women aspiring to make cinema. The Bazaar facilitates funding through co-production.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for Hindustan Times)