Middle East International Film Festival in October

The festival will have new features. (SUPPLIED)

Film fans should mark October 14 to 23 in their diaries as the time when the fourth Middle East International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi, will be held, the organisers announced yesterday.

The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage appealed for entries in the narrative and documentary features sections as well as for short films in all genres.

"The Middle East International Film Festival aims to consolidate the status of Abu Dhabi as an emerging cultural centre and to promote the growth of the local film community," said Director-General Eissa Al Mazrouei.

"The festival celebrates cinema in all its forms and by creating a lively forum that brings together storytellers from the Middle East and the world".

Last year's festival was the first to be held under new Executive Director Peter Scarlet and marked some significant developments.

Foremost among the changes was the new format of the feature competition sections, one for fiction films and one for documentaries.

Scarlet said: "The filmmakers who served on our juries, the journalists and industry figures who travelled here and the members of our local audience were unanimous about the strength of our programme, especially the strength of the selections of films from this region.

"This is good news for filmmakers and film-lovers everywhere. And our ability to offer an attractive and vibrant showcase for talented and risk-taking filmmakers from all over the Middle East is an opportunity the festival will continue to emphasise in its future editions."

At last year's event 128 films from 49 countries were shown and saw attendance at screenings double from 2008 to reach more than 31,000.

As in previous years the festival welcomed major stars from Hollywood, Bollywood and the Middle East, including Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts, two-time Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, Demi Moore, Eva Mendes, Orlando Bloom, Freida Pinto, fashion designer Jason Wu, Zayed Khan, Lara Dutta, Akshay Kumar, Oscar-winner AR Rahman, Hend Sabry, Mahmoud Hemeda, Biyouna, Khaled Abol Naga, Golshifteh Farahani and Sawsan Badr.

Last year prize money for the festival's Black Pearl Awards, which again totalled more than $1 million (Dh3.7m), for the first time included funds to support the completion of key Middle East films selected by the festival's programming team.

The recipients were Son of Babylon by Mohamed Al-Daradji, which had its world premiere in Abu Dhabi before being selected for the Sundance and Berlin festivals, Port of Memory by Kamal Aljafari, which also world premiered at the festival, and We Were Communists by Maher Abi Samra, which was screened as a work in progress.

Vanessa Redgrave received the festival's first Black Pearl Lifetime Achievement Award.

Complete information regarding eligibility for the festival will be available at www.meiff.com in late January 2010. The opening date for entries is April 1 and the closing date is July 1.

 

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