The 5th Gulf Film Festival Begins in Dubai

The 5th Gulf Film Festival Begins in Dubai

The fifth edition of the Gulf Film Festival gets under way on Tuesday 10 April with a diverse line up of 155 short and full length feature films selected from Gulf and international submissions. Those shortlisted come from 40 countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Brazil, Romania, and France, and the Festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma says that; 

“This is without doubt an exceptional edition. The quality, diversity and strength of the features, documentaries and shorts from the region is a mirror of its potential. We are also privileged to host a stellar lineup of world cinema, and honoured to be able to take these films to new audiences in the UAE – and we look forward to entertaining, engaging and challenging residents and visitors alike.” 

The Festival is celebrating its landmark fifth anniversary, and for the first time will include a special weekend of film screenings in Abu Dhabi from 12 - 14 April 2012, at the Abu Dhabi Theatre.

The Festival opens in Dubai at Grand Cinemas, Festival City, with a screening of the Kuwaiti feature film 'Tora Bora' from filmmaker Walid Al Awadi, an international premiere and one of the six Kuwaiti films shortlisted. 'Tora Bora' revolves around a brainwashed young man's decision to join extremist forces in Afghanistan, and his parents' agonized search for him.

The Kuwait line up also includes the world premiere of 'Al Salhiyah', directed by Sadeq Behbehani, and the multiple award winning short 'Wonderland: A True Story' by Kuwait's Dana Al Mojil.

Kuwait is not the only Gulf nation to have multiple films featured in the shortlisted competition programmes, with the UAE, Iraq, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia all featuring films in the double figures.

The UAE in particular dominates the entire programme with 42 films successfully entered, 31 of which are making their world premiere. 'Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai' directed by Katy Chang is one of three UAE films to have gained a place in the Official Gulf Feature Competition. This documentary features a mixture of hand-drawn animations with live footage, as art and life are intertwined in this funny, yet poignant journey of three artists who are followed on their quest for culture.

Six of the Iraqi films selected are competing in the Official Gulf Short Competition, including 'Cart'. Directed by Hadi Mahood, 'Cart' is an evocative journey through the contemporary history of Iraq. The cart rolls down the rugged pathways of the country, and each place it covers has a distinct story to tell the viewers. The Iraqi selection as a whole gives viewers a rare look inside the country by its people and sheds light on their hopes, lives and happiness.

The Bahraini selection of films cover different genres including comedy, adventure, docudrama and experimental, highlighting the creative diversity that marks film making in the Gulf Island nation today. Their successful contribution the the Official Gulf Student Competition is 'Patience Salt' by Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed, which centers around the life-changing events in the life of a simple date farmer. Losing everything, he turns to the healing power of salt – not just to treat his own wounds but also those of his people.

One of the films featured from Saudi Arabia is 'Home Sweet Home' by Abdullah Al-Eyaf which features in the out-of-competition segment, 'Cherries of Kiarostami'. 'Cherries of Kiarostami' will be shown in two parts during the Festival and is screening 39 short films resulting from the film master-class held with world-renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami during the GFF 2011.

The Official International Short Competition features 15 strong submissions from across the world including 'The Sea Is All I Know' from the USA and directed by Jason Bayne, which tells the story of an estranged couple who come to the aid of their dying daughter. The experience sends them spiralling into a spiritual crisis and brutal heartbreak. In the end, an act of selfless love, renews their lives, transcends their loss of faith and even death itself. The successful submission from Austria is 'Hatch' by Christoph Kuschnig, which follows two couples as they make heart-wrenching decisions. As illegal immigrants, one couple must acknowledge they cannot raise their newborn. The second couple, older and more stable, desperately want to welcome a child into their lives. Decisions borne of desperation cause their lives to briefly cross.  

Festival Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali spoke about the difficulties he faced when choosing which films to feature in the competitions;

“From the Gulf shorts competition, where the quality and topics of the films outstrips every edition so far, to the international competition with more than 700 seasoned filmmakers competing for 15 slots, narrowing down a final selection was a struggle. We have out of competition sections that are as powerful, in many cases, as our competitions.” 

The Gulf Film Festival is home to multiple out-of-competition segments including a children’s cinema showcase, master classes, nightly industry discussions and other special events. 

The children's cinema programme screens on the weekend and features an entertaining line up of films from all over the world, including 'Divine Intervention' by Taiwanese director Yen-Chi Tseng and 'A Shadow of Blue', an animated short by France's Carlos Lescano.

Other non-competition segments include the Official Selection: Lights, the Official Selection: Intersections and In Focus: Jordan, which begins on Wednesday and features 7 films from Jordan.

One of the special events featured at the Festival is a screening of 153 vignettes crafted by avant-garde French filmmaker Courant, including 134 of the four-minute personal sketches of UAE residents and GFF guests that are now part of the world’s longest movie, 'Cinematon'. Another 19 films by Courant, including documentaries on Dubai and short portraits with luminaries including German director Werner Herzog, will be screened on special monitors across the festival venue.

GFF 2012 will be held from 10 - 16 April, 2012, at the InterContinental Hotel, Crowne Plaza and Grand Festival Cinemas at Dubai Festival City; and from 12 - 14 April at the Abu Dhabi Theatre. All film screenings are free and open to the public.

To view the full line up and schedule please visit


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