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Dubai's disappointing film festival

Budget cuts and a lukewarm selection made the latest Dubai International Film Festival the weakest in recent memory, raising questions about the festival’s future and Arab cinema in general.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 17:  A general view of award winners with DIFF Chairman Abdulhamid Juma ahead of the Closing Night premiere "Into The Woods" during day eight of the 11th Annual Dubai International Film Festival held at the Madinat Jumeriah Complex on December 17, 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for DIFF)

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is struggling. Most observers wholeheartedly acknowledge it, yet refrain from discussing the topic much. While the 11th installment of one of the biggest film festivals in the region was not the disaster Dubai’s detractors declared it to be, it was far from successful. Budget cuts and a lukewarm selection made the latest DIFF, which ran Dec. 10-17, the weakest in recent memory, raising questions not only about the festival’s future, but also regarding the general state of Arab cinema.

When the DIFF began in 2003, the cinematic landscape in the region was quite barren, the industry stagnant and funding opportunities sparse. Dubai changed all that, offering generous funds, co-production opportunities and a solid platform for young directors from every corner of the region. It started a revolution for Arab cinema, paving the way for other organizations such as the Doha Film Institute, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the Royal Jordanian Film Commission to emerge and establish a solid foundation for new Arab cinema.

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