Former Italian cultural attaché says cinema scene has evolved considerably in the last five years.

Alessandra Priante was Italy’s cultural attaché to the United Arab Emirates for four years until her term expired in September.

Still in the Gulf, and hoping to get another posting in the region, Priante is a member of the Child Protection Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival this year.

The competition focuses on 14 films touching on child protection related topics. This year Difret, Cains’s Children, Pirates of Sale and Refugiado are among the features competing for the $30,000 script prize and the $70,000 best film awards.

Priante talks about the jury and the Emirati cinema scene.

What are the Child Protection Awards?

They were created by UAE’s Child Protection Centre at the Ministry of Interior. It’s an important award because it recognises the power of cinema to send out a big message and shed light on situations regarding child abuse or neglect in any part of the world and potentially create awareness.

 You’ve lived in the region for the last four years, how have you see the Emirati cinema scene develop.

 It’s evolved lot, especially on the creative side. More and more young people are taking cinema into consideration as a means of artistic, social and personal expression and – even potentially - as a job.

I think the next step is to seriously work on creating a strong local independent production sector, following the example of what happened in the arts sector in Dubai which now is a real creative hub for the Middle East, home to not only the best galleries but also a flourishing creative community.

You recently organised the European film screenings in Abu Dhabi. Can you talk a bit about them. DId they work?

It was an incredible experience, extremely overwhelming for the amazing response from the audience. People were queuing up to get in. The screenings were free of charge on a first come first serve basis. .

The event ran from September 18-25 in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai and was set up in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi International Film Festival, the Dubai International Film Festival and the embassies of 13 European Member Statesand headed by the European Delegation to the UAE.

It opened with the Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s 2014 Oscar winner La Grande Bellezza and also featured some of the best of independent European films of recent times.

We also screened 12 Emirati Short films before each evening screening and each screening day was also opened by an Emirati short film.

There was also a panel discussion on film co-productions in Europe, moderated by me in my role of Eurimages representative and European Film Academy member, where we opened the dialogue on possible ways of cooperating between representatives of the European film industry who were accompanying some of the films, and their Emirati counterparts, like Ali Al Jabri, ADFF Festival Director Ali Al Jabri,, Emirati director Nawaf Janahi, and Samr Al Marzouqi, director of the Dubai Film Market.