Wrapping Up To An Audience's Request for An Encore
The 1st European Film Screening in UAE Successfully Closes with Overwhelming Audience Acclaim
Enjoying wide acclaim, the 1st European Film Screenings (EFS) in the UAE closed yesterday, Thursday. The closing ceremony featured another full-house screening of Wolfgang Becker's outstanding award-winning film Goodbye Lenin in Dubai, which celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall.
With the presence of sponsors and a hefty number of diverse attendees, La Grande Bellezza, by Paolo Sorrentino, was announced a winner of the Best Film Award, presented by Front Row Filmed Entertainment. For their collaboration with the EFS, Front Row Filmed Entertainment gave the winner the opportunity to have their film uploaded on the iTunes store, which has more than 880 million subscribers worldwide and in turn the customers will be able to rent or buy the film and the copyright owner of the title will have their share of every sale that is done. The audiences also were not left out; after participating in a poll, rating each of the films that were screened throughout the festival, Etihad Airways, the UAE's Official National Carrier and one of the key sponsors for the event, conducted a random draw at the closing ceremony, awarding one lucky winner two return tickets to Rome, Italy.
The success of the EFS would not have been possible without the continued support of the contributing nations from the European Union. The Head of Political, Press and Information Section, Mr. Thomas Peykerhas said, "The European films screening has been an overwhelming success, we had "full house" everyday. The interest in contemporary European movies seems to be huge in the UAE and such a success story asks of course for repetition. We will start to work on that today! Many thanks and compliments not only to the organizers who did an incredible job and to all those who made that happen, especially the EU embassies who facilitated this event with their film contributions, but also to the enthusiastic moviegoers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai; you were just great and made everybody involved in this very happy! Thanks, you are true fans!."
Alessandra Priante, Italian Cultural Expert for the Gulf Region and orchestrator of the event, was in awe at how the screenings were embraced by the various communities and nationalities across the UAE. "It's amazing to witness the power of cinema, on how it reaches beyond any form of cultural barrier, beyond language, beyond mindsets," she said.
The event, initiated by the Italian Embassy to the UAE in the framework of its 2014 Presidency of the Council of the European Union and done in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival, the Dubai International Film Festival and the Embassies of 13 European Member States (Italy, Germany, France, UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Sweden and Austria), launched on September 18th. The event, which opened in both cities with the Italian 2014 Oscar winner "La Grande Bellezza", to a full-house in both
Abu Dhabi and Dubai, featured a carefully curated rich ensemble of the most recent and successful independent films from Europe. The Netherlands'
was the second-most favorite film amongst the audiences, according to the polls. His Excellency
Jennes de Mol
, the Dutch Ambassador to the UAE, was very pleased with the audiences' reaction, about which he remarked stating, "We are proud to be part of the line-up of the first edition of the European Film Screenings with the Dutch universal comedy Soof. The reception of the movie by UAE audiences was exceptionally good. In both Abu Dhabi and Dubai theatres were full and filled with laughter. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to bring a glimpse of Dutch cinema to the UAE. We are thankful to the Italian Embassy that took the lead in proposing and organizing this successful initiative, to the EU delegation for their support and to all other embassies for their varied contributions that lead to a strong programming. The strength of the European Union is in its cultural diversity and the Film Screenings showed this very well. This experience has been remarkable and we are already looking forward to be part of future editions of the European Film Screenings." Whereas H.E. Ambassador Nicole Bintner-Bakshian
of Luxembourg expressed, "The first ever European Film Screenings in the UAE was an exciting project to be a part of. We were delighted to have the opportunity to present, for the first time ever in the UAE, an authentic Luxembourg movie and to contribute to the rich exchange of culture through the power of film".
Alexandr Sporys, Ambassador of the Czech Republic, commended the Italian Embassy and the EU delegation in Abu Dhabi for the success of the European Film Screenings 2014, stating that he, "hope[s] that this excellent initiative of bringing and presenting together the best of the European culture will take its root and become a new tradition in the U.A.E".
EFS also featured an amazing selection of distinguished Emirati short films, critically applauded by Abu Dhabi International Film Festival (ADFF) and the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), as a tribute to the UAE film industry by showcasing the talents of UAE film directors. Samr Al Marzouqi, Dubai Film Market Manager at DIFF, commented on this saying, "We are blessed to live in a country that houses over 200 nationalities who live in harmony.
Understanding each other's background, history and culture what makes it a unique community and a vibrant melting pot.
EFS rule of expanding this energy was just amazing given the strong films screened, theatres getting filled by film lovers and screenings in 2 cities over a weekend".
On the same note, ADFF's Director, Ali Al Jabri said, "The film industry in the UAE has incredible potential and with its growing popularity comes a flourishing culture of cinema and fresh talent. However, global awareness and perceptions are still developing, which is why events like EFS
are so crucial for local filmmakers. In line with our mission of building a world-class film industry in the region, we are committed towards creating more opportunities for budding filmmakers and the EFS is the perfect platform to showcase and promote Emirati talent".
The Emirati filmmaker, Nawaf Al Janahi, has lauded the concept of the screenings: "Launching an event such as the European Film Screenings is vital to the film movement in the UAE. I was thrilled to see the full houses and the diverse audience at the various films; it's just one more proof that our society is hungry for different cinemas than the mainstream usually provided in our market. Presenting an Emirati short film before each feature was a great step, and I hope it becomes a standard in all similar events in the country".
Within the framework of EFS, a panel discussion was held, where highly renowned international filmmakers and cinema auteurs discussed film co-productions in Europe and the possibility of applying this successful experience in the Arab world and precisely Gulf countries. Moderated by Italian Cultural Expert and Eurimages Representative Alessandra Priante, the panel discussion featured representatives of the European film industry, accompanying some of their films screened at the event, in addition to an array of professional Emirati film directors and festival executives. The panel discussion was further attended by Austrian producer Heinz Stussak, producer of The Silent Mountain; Swedish producer Peter Hiltunen, producer of The Ice Dragon; Ali Al Jabri, Director of ADFF; Filmmaker and Producer Nawaf Al Janahi, and Samr Al Marzooqi.
The core of the discussion, which was introduced by a video message of Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54, was to understand how it works in Europe and if the same basis could be replicated with the same success also in the Middle East, and the Gulf in particular. On this topic, Heinz Stussack stressed that any good co-production is based on the sharing of a universal story, no matter what language it's shot in.
Emphasizing the importance of creating multi-lingual and internationally-oriented films,
Nawaf Al Janahi
added, "I am lucky. I make movies for an international audience that lives in one country, the UAE. I have two new movie projects; one will be in Arabic while the other will be in English."
also added, "I was also happy to take part in the co-production panel discussion; the organizers realize the importance of collaboration on film projects, and similar talks are needed to raise awareness about the challenges we face on the ground, and to present practical solutions to make our films reach a wider audience, locally, regionally, and internationally"
Peter Hiltunen, representing the well-known "nordik" production block, highlighted the potential of creating more universal stories from this part of the world, also through tools like writing labs to be shared among Europe and the UAE and the Gulf in general. Ali Al Jabri emphasized the role of festivals in the UAE for actually allowing the young film talents of the Gulf to stand up to the filmmaking experience. Without funds like Sanad or like Enjaaz, many of the recent successes from the Arab World (like "Theeb" which just won a price in Venice Film Festival) would have not seen the light.
Samr Al Marzouqi, stressed how the role of film festivals is exactly the one of working harder with distribution to make sure arab films reach audiences. Especially in the UAE where the number of film theatres per capita is the highest in the Gulf Region.