Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DIFF launches encyclopedia of Arabic cinema

To celebrate its landmark 10th edition, the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) today launched an online poll of the region's most prominent film critics, writers, novelists, academics, and other cultural figures, who will collectively nominate the best 100 films of Arab cinema from its beginnings to the present day.

The resulting 100 films will be documented in an Arabic-English cinematic encyclopedia, to be released during the festival's 10th anniversary edition, which will take place December 6-14, 2013.

DIFF Chairman Abdulhamid Juma stressed the importance of this unique project, the first of its kind in the Arab world: "The encyclopedia project provides an exceptional opportunity to identify the glorious milestones in the history of Arab cinema as judged by today's most prominent cultural commentators. Since DIFF's inception, our core mandate has been to support and nurture Arabic cinema, and we yearly recognize its greatest practitioners with our Lifetime Achievement Awards programme. A poll of this nature is key in documenting, promoting and preserving the Arabic cinematic legacy, for Arabs and non-Arabs alike."

More than 1000 cultural specialists, including a select handful of non-Arab experts in the area, will be invited to participate via a special voting system, whereby each will select the 10 most important feature or documentary films in the history of Arab cinema. The list of candidate films will include all Arab cinema productions in all Arab countries, as well as co-productions between Arab and foreign filmmakers, providing the subject matter relates to "Arab" themes and the director is of Arab descent.

DIFF Artistic Director, Masoud Amralla Al Ali, praised the project as an important reference for the new generation of Arab filmmakers, saying: "The scope of this exercise is certain to turn up some forgotten gems of Arab cinema, and will forge a new relationship between Arab filmmakers and their audiences' a renewed recognition of the importance and relevance of regional films. It also reinforces a strong relationship between cinema of the past and present, giving an important cinematic and historical context to movements and important figures that continue to influence us today."

The Cinematic Encyclopedia will list the best 100 films, accompanied by scholarly and critical text from the Arab world's most prominent critics, including historical data, information on the conditions of the productions, and background on the key creatives that made the films possible.

"This project is based on transparency and free voting, making it a compilation of multiple voices and views. With the Encyclopedia, we are moving away from single reviews based on the specific tastes or biases of one critic toward a multiplicity of intellectual and cultural currents from all around the Arab world, said the Ziad Abdullah, DIFF's Manager of Content Development. "I urge all those invited to vote to strongly contribute. The more participants we can amass, the more comprehensive a view we will be able to compile of Arab cinema and its historical reality."

The finished Encyclopedia will be released during the DIFF 2013, and will be distributed to international and regional libraries as an indispensable reference to the study of Arab cinema.