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Abu Dhabi film fest aims to boost moviemaking culture in region
Abu Dhabi, Oct 14 (IANS) Cultural activities have taken centrestage here and Abu Dhabi International Film festival, said to be one of the biggest in the region, starting Thursday, is trying to boost the filmmaking culture in the oil-rich region.

'This is the plan of ADACH (The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage). They take care of the cultural activities here. These days, a lot of cultural things are happening here. Through ADACH, we are trying to boost cultural activities like classical programmes, music, publishing books to Formula 1. And movies are also a part of it,' Intishal Tamimi, director of the film festival's programme, told IANS in an interview here.

'At this moment, our aim is not just to show films but to also provide a meeting point for professionals, filmmakers, buyers and producers as well as a meeting place for different generations from different countries and continents,' he added.

He says the festival, launched in 2007 as the Middle East International Film Festival, started growing from the second edition only. 'From last year, half of the competition films were from Arab countries. This year, we have about 12 feature films in the competitions,' said Tamimi, who agrees with the fact that there aren't too many films coming from the region.

'There is no big Arab production generally. In the last seven years, Egypt has came out with 40-50 films. Countries like Syria, lebanon, Iraq make between two to three feature films yearly. Morocco is making 15 films per year. This year, the production was low because of the world crisis,' he said.

To motivate and boost the filmmaking culture, the organisers of the festival have set up SANAD film fund.

'This year, we established SANAD to help filmmakers here and we will spend $500,000 (five hundred thousand dollars) every year. This is for development and post-production support. The maximum budget for the post-production of a movie is $60,000 and for the development $20,000.

'This year, we received 100 scripts and chose 18 from Arab countries. We also received 55 films for post-production and chose 10,' said Tamimi.

The gala event will be kick-started by Randall Wallace's 'Secretariat'. Starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich, the film is based on the true story of the 1973 Triple Crown-winning racehorse and its owner Penny Chenery.

In the competition section, movies like director Wang Bing's Chinese film 'The Ditch'; Olivier Assayas' 'Carlos' about the notorious terrorist featuring a remarkable performance by Edgar Ramirez; 'In a Better World' by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier; French film 'Potiche' by François Ozon and Russian movie 'Silent Souls' by Aleksei Fedorchenko will be showcased.

Tamimi feels that the prize money in itself is a big motivational factor.

'One million dollar in prizes for the festival is a support and motivation in itself.'

Three Indian movies will also be showcased here. UTV's production venture 'Paan Singh Tomar' about the soldier-athlete who went on to become a bandit will have its world premiere at the fest. Indian filmmaker Murli Nair's 'Virgin Goat' will be screened in the competition section and economist turned-director Srijit Mukherji' Bengali debut film 'Autograph' too is scheduled for screening.

Starring Bengali stars Prosenjit Chatterjee, Nandana Sen and Indraneil Sengupta, 'Autograph' that revolves around the lives of a superstar, a young director and a theatre actress who come together during the process of making a film, is said to be inspired by Uttam Kumar's 'Nayak'.

Tamimi is pretty satisfied with the response from the international film fraternity.

'The response has been fabulous. We are hosting about 600 to 700 international guests and more than 2000 people from within the country,' Tamini said.

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