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What’s the DIFF?

What’s the DIFF?

Dubai’s film festival begins on December 11. A Kipp writer wonders: why does Dubai have a film festival when it only has a handful of Emirati filmmakers?

December 10, 2008 3:09 by

It started with a yawn. The short films by Arab directors, which the Dubai International Film Festival promised would showcase Arab talent from across the Middle East were putting me to sleep. But as I looked back at the audience, I found that the only people awake were the filmmakers – with their curly Arab-style afros and thick glasses – and their clingy friends. The rest were slumped in their seats, drooling I imagined, as the hard work of Arab men and women flickered before them.

I was feeling romantic about Arab filmmakers, and I wanted to support them. So I stayed, and worked hard at staying awake, until a production about Beirut, filmed from driver’s seat and duplicated to look as though the ‘viewer’ was intoxicated began and almost killed me; I cursed, got my purse and tiptoed out there.

I went shopping instead.

But film disasters were expected. Back then, DIFF was only three years old; three years isn’t nearly enough to hone local and regional talent. Then again, neither is five years.

Not so, says the Abdulhamid Juma, chairman of DIFF. In an interview with Khaleej Times, he claims that “festivals usually take very long time to shape up. But, it’s only in Dubai that we have cut the 15 years period to five years.”

And that’s where the discrepancies in definitions begin.

For some, festivals are organic creations that are organized by communities to celebrate local talent, or religious or historic events. That’s why in the southern Balkans, a tiny Muslim ethnic group gathers every five years for a mass circumcision festival, and why, to celebrate Ukraine’s Malanka festival (a combination of New Year’s, Mardi Gras and Halloween) on January 13, men and women dress up as goblins and Nazis. They don’t import the festivities, they’re homegrown.

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