Non-profit cultural body aims to promote Arab cinema and launch an Oscars-style awards ceremony.

Top industry figures from across the Arab cinema world gathered at DIFF yesterday for the launch of the Arab Film Institute (AFI).

Headquartered in Dubai, the non-profit cultural body aims to act as a platform for Arab cinema, past and present, and support its future development at every level, from production through to distribution and promotion.

Modelled loosely on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the new body will also launch an Oscar-style awards ceremony, the Arab Film Awards, covering 19 categories, from directing to cinematography and lifetime achievement.

Funding for the body will come through membership fees and patronage.

“Being a witness and active member of the bright and rich Arab film scene, I felt we needed to bring together all this energy and exchange experiences and ideas as well as offering wider opportunities in a fast-changing world to our film community,” explained Lebanese producer Paul Baboudjian.

Some of the industry figures and journalists at the Sunday’s DIFF news conference questioned the practicality of trying to create an umbrella body to cover the whole of the Arab world given the diversity of its various territories.

“Look at Eurimages,” countered Algerian producer, director and founding AFI member Salem Brahimi, referring to European film development body.

“Its members speak 24 languages between them and they manage to make it work. We’re going to be messy, learn as we go along and probably make mistakes, but even these mistakes will be better than what we do now.”

Other industry figures involved in the initiative include directors Nabil Ayouch (Morocco), Maysoon Pachachi (Iraq), Rashid Masharawi (Palestine), Hafiz Ali Ali (Qatar) and producers Dora Bouchoucha (Tunisia) and Mohamed Hefzy (Egypt).

 Also involved are George David of the Jordan Royal Film Commission; Kuwaiti Undersecretary of the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs and film producer Al Zain Al Sabah; and Antoine Khalife, director of the Arab film programme at DIFF.