For 14 years, The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has served as the premiere springboard for Arab talent. So it came as a huge surprise when it was announced that the eight-day festival will not be taking place this year. Instead, organizers confirmed on Wednesday that DIFF will adopt a new bi-annual format, with the 15th edition of the festival set to take place in 2019. A statement shared on the Dubai International Film Festival Twitter account revealed that organizers will be taking a new approach, with the festival occurring every two years as opposed to being an annual event. “The industry is changing fast, and so are we,” read the tweet. Additionally, its affiliated DIFF365 program (in collaboration with Vox cinemas and du), which brought indie films across cinemas in Dubai has not been extended for another year.
The announcement comes just hours after the official opening of the first public cinema in neighboring Saudi Arabia after 35-years.
The industry is changing fast, and so are we. The organisers of DIFF will be adopting a new approach with the festival taking place every 2 years, the 15th edition of DIFF confirmed for 2019. Final dates and more details to follow – stay tuned! https://t.co/cFjGmJ9TuL
— Dubai International Film Festival (@dubaifilm) April 18, 2018
The new strategy aims to support and nurture the growth and evolution of the film industry in the region. The chairman of the Dubai Film & Television Commission Jamal Al Sharif said in a statement: “DIFF has established Dubai as a world-class destination in the film and content industry. It serves as a platform to promote cultural understanding between the region and the world, as well as the development of the local and regional film industry, giving the opportunity to many ambitious film makers to shine.”
Indeed, since its launch 14-years ago, the film festival had more than 1,500 film screenings with 500 of those directed by Arab filmmakers. It’s also helped 300 films from the region reach completion, and facilitated funding and partnership for another 140. DIFF served as the ultimate platform for Arab films to take center stage, and supported hundreds of local talent through the Festival’s highly-anticipated Muhr Awards.
Each year, Dubai saw a spike in tourism with people descending upon the Emirate to attend the event, including international and regional celebrities Samuel L Jackson, Emily Blunt, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sonam Kapoor, who have all flown in to attend the eight-day event.
“With the vast changes taking place both in the regional and global movie-making and content industry, we are seeking to redefine the Dubai International Film Festival’s approach towards nurturing growth, creativity and talent. Innovative new approaches and technologies are transforming the distribution of content and the craft of movie-making. As a forward-thinking player in the global film industry, DIFF seeks to embrace the future of the industry through this strategic shift,” continues Al Sharif.
Dates and programs are to be announced “as soon as confirmed”, but many recall the Gulf Film Festival, which was put on temporary hiatus in 2014, and never to return.