Last month’s Dubai Film Festival included diverse winners such as Leyla Bouzid who took home the coveted Best Fiction Film award for her rite-of-passage film “As I Open My Eyes.” Hany Abu Assad’s “The Idol” won the People’s Choice Award for a film based on the life of Palestinian Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf. And crowd favorite “We Have Never Been Kids” won for Best Non-Fiction film which, according to online materials, is about “a journey that document(s) through two generations the declining of the social, political and economic situation over the most inflamed 13 years in Egypt modern history.”
Daily Variety interviewed festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma about the state of Arab cinema, and the genesis of the festival which first began in 2004.
“Most of what we see in the Arab world, basically, is a lot of mainstream Hollywood movies, which are entertaining — car chases and cowboys — fine, ok. But we also wanted to bring to our audiences the other side of Western — especially American — society,” says Mr. Juma. “Films that touch your soul and start conversations. So when I say ‘create a bridge,’ I mean a bridge that goes both ways. On our side that means trying to enhance Arab filmmaking and prompt making films about who we really are — for ourselves but also for the West. That’s really where the idea of the festival came from.”