Of the Arabs, Abu Dhabi continues to vie with Dubai with Qatar quiet now that Tribeca is over. Dubai Film Festival is hosting smaller more targeted events and seems to be taking the lead of the three new Arab Emirates Film Festivals while Abu Dhabi is announcing itself on all the trade papers' covers and grabbing headlines with its new film fund and with the Abu Dhabi Film Commission presenting a $100,000 Shasha Grant Screenwriting and Pitch Competition.
The $250 million movie fund created by Imagenation Abu Dhabi, owned by Abu Dhabi Media Co. and Participant Media will back "The Crazies" a movie based on George A. Romero's 1974 cult classic which Overture will partner on financing and with North American distribution and which Paramount Vantage will sell internationally, and a Brendan Fraser family comedy "Furry Vengeance" which Summit will sell internationally and distribute stateside.
The Dubai Film Connection, Dubai Film Festival's co-production market, has 33 feature projects in development, three in pre-production and another six set to go into production next year.
Three films from the 2008 edition of DFC -- Selma Bargach's "The Fifth String," Mahmoud al-Massad's "This Is My Picture When I Was Dead" and Maryanne Zehil's "The Valley of Tears" -- are set to go into production in the coming months. Two DFC projects -- Atef Hetata's "Oblivion" and Faouzi Bensaidi's "Death for Sale" -- are in Cannes' emerging filmmaker lab L'Atelier. Cherien Dabis' "Amreeka," which screens in Directors' Fortnight, was developed at the 2007 Dubai Film Connection. Dabis secured significant pre-buys from both Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal's shingle Rotana and pay TV platform Showtime Arabia and this enabled the film to get made.
The Dubai fest has also announced a tie-up with Martin Scorsese and the World Cinema Foundation to help in the restoration of Arab cinema. WCF will work with Dubai to restore two Arab films a year.
Kuwait's Sheikha Al Zain Al-Sabah, a member of the royal family of Kuwait, has created Eagle Vision Media Group as a home for Arab filmmakers with international commercial appeal. She is building a studio in Kuwait with production and post-production facilities, to be completed 2010 along with her slate of films. Eagle Vision Media has coproduced Imax's "Journey to Mecca" with National Geographic and also "Amreeka" the recent breakout film from Sundance which garnered awards a a work in progress at the last Dubai film festival.
From left field, Don Ranvaud of the Latin America leaning company Buena Onda and international sales agent OndaMax has created a partnership with Syrian company The Orient Group, headed by humantiarian businessman Nabil Toumeh who has produced TV and features and will not produce Argentinian "Sadourni's Butterflies" to be directed by Dario Nardi. Max Saidel is one of the associate producers.
Of the Indians, India has benefitted from capital from the stock market last year.
The $50m Mumbai based film fund, Cinema Capital Venture Fund (CCVF), launched in 2008 has invested $10m in domestic production and is in Cannes to invest $5m to $7m a year in international projects, most likely based in the U.K.
There are 50 film companies exhibiting their projects and product at the Indian Pavilion in Cannes. Reliance Big Picture continues to make the largest headlines as it has since buying equity in Dreamworks some six months back. Reliance Big Picture's first Indian film meant for a glbal audience, the $30m "Kites" stars Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan in his first English language film.
India’s National Film Development Corp and Locarno Film Festival will work together on the Screenwriters Lab aiming to prepare Indian writers to sell original screenplays in the international market. Locarno will host the first section and the second will be at the Film Bazaar in Goa between November 24 – 26. Locarno’s third edition will also include its previous partners, the binger Filmlab and Entertainment Society of Goa.
India’s Eros International continues its presence in the global marketplace with three international film projects starring Indian and American talent.
To facilitate foreign co-production in India, a new producers' directory called "The Changing Face of Indian Cinema" is now available at the India Pavilion and can be downloaded free on www.assocahm.org. Jointly prepared by the Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and ASSOCHAM, and written by Supreme court advocate Pavan Duggal, the comprehensive guide details regulations on co-productions and international property rights in India.
The number of foreign films shot in India has more than doubled in the past three years to 20 films shot in 2008. A directory of line producers in India is in the works and will be released next year.