The Arab film industry is starting up its first unified motion picture association and launching the Arab Film Awards, its version of the Oscars.
The potentially game changing initiative, still in early stages, was announced on Sunday by a group of prominent Arab producers and industry execs during the 13th edition of the Dubai Film Festival, which is among its supporters. The Dubai fest is the world's leading Arab cinema platform.
Plans are underway for the first edition of the Arab Film Awards to take place in Dubai in March 2018, with statuettes to be handed out in 19 categories.
The nascent entity behind the initiative is a non-profit called the Arab Film Institute which will be headquartered in Dubai. The goal is to have at least 500 members next year, said Lebanese producer Paul Baboudjian, a former executive director of funding org.
Screen Institute Beirut, who conceived and got the ball rolling on what is intended to become the Arab rough equivalent of the European Film Academy, or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the U.S.
"Being a witness and active member of the bright and rich Arab film scene, I felt we needed to bring together all this energy and exchange experiences and ideas as well as offer wider opportunities in a fast-changing world to our film community," Baboudjian said at a packed presser.
The initial nucleus on the board of the institute behind the first pan-Arab film prizes includes prominent Egyptian indie producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy ("Clash"); Tunisia's top arthouse producer Dora Bouchoucha ("Hedi"); the head of Jordan's Royal Film Commission George David; Moroccan filmmaker and producer Nabil Ayouch ("Much Loved"); Al Zain Al Sabah, who is Undersecretary of Kuwait's Ministry of State for Youth Affairs and also a film producer; and Jawaheer Abdulla Al Qassimi, who is director of - Director of the UAE's Funn, Media Arts for Youth org. and the Sharjah Children International Film Festival.
Aside from launching the first Arab film nods, the Arab Film Institute will seek to become a forum for the region's film industry to try and collectively tackle stumbling blocks such as distribution impediments caused by different varieties of Arabic in different countries, and collectively address the lack of a real pan-Arab star system.
"We currently work in silos," said Hefzy. "More interaction is necessary," he noted.
"We are a single market; we need to build this market and this has not been happening," said Algerian director and producer Salem Brahimi ("Let Them Come").
Asked about potential rifts that could arise within the org. Brahimi said: "we are going to be messy! We are going to quarrel, we are going to learn as we go, we know that.
But even if we make mistakes, we will achieve more than we are achieving right now, which is nothing."