His Excellency Mohamed Khalaf al-Mazrouei and The Circle Director Adrienne Briggs welcomed industry guests to the Film Lounge on Saturday night for the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage Reception, to celebrate the growth of film in the region.

The Circle Conference is growing in its second year to a five-day event, Oct 6-11 (running parallel with the Middle East International Film Festival Oct 10-19).

One new initiative this year will be the Cloeween Connection, a showcase for the 15 best emerging directors from the Middle East. That programme will include a showcase DVD, press introductions and mentoring with international producers. About 300 attendees are again expected to attend The Circle Conference, which will move from Emirates Palace to the Shangri-La Hotel.

'We're devoted to helping Emirati film-makers and we also want to keep up these long-term relationships with international executives and producers,' Briggs told Screen. 'We want to build connections in the Middle East and then build bridges to international partners.'

Another new focus in 2008 will be an interactive media exhibition.

In addition, The Circle will announce the $100,000 winner of its Shasha Screenwriting Competition during the Conference. The Circle also runs year-round initiatives including Investor Circle workshops and the Adasa Film Labs.