Dubai Film Market is expanding with an increase in exhibitors and the introduction of the Dubai Docs initiative. Liz Shackleton reports.

While the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) showcases completed Arab films, the accompanying Dubai Film Market (DFM) has been responsible for getting many of these titles into production in the first place.

This year’s DIFF programme includes three films that previously took part in DFM’s projects market, Dubai Film Connection: Mohamed Khan’s Factory Girl, Abdenour Zahzah’s The River and Dalila Ennadre’s Walls And People [pictured]. Three of the region’s foreign-language Oscar submissions — Lebanon’s Blind Intersections, Wadjda from Saudi Arabia and Palestine’s Omar, which is opening DIFF — were supported by DFM initiatives. 

DFM supports films through several different programmes: co-production markets Dubai Film Connection and Interchange, the IWC Filmmaker Award, post-production and production fund Enjaaz and trading platform Filmmart. This year the market has also launched new initiative Dubai Docs, which aims to raise awareness of creative, as opposed to journalistic, documentary film-making in the Arab world.

“Creative documentaries is one of the areas that is most difficult to get funded both in the region and internationally so the idea is to get feedback from international experts on what film-makers need to do to get funding and get their projects made,” says Jane Williams, director of Dubai Film Connection and Film Forum.

‘We have a mix of established and new film-makers, which is what we want’

Jane Williams, Dubai Film Connection

DFM is working with five partners on Dubai Docs’ three-day training and talent development programme (December 10-12): the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), DOCmed, Screen Institute Beirut, Germany’s Robert Bosch Foundation and Denmark’s CPH:DOX Lab. Seven project teams will receive training in pitching while a larger group will be given insights into how commissioning editors work. The event will also introduce international professionals to creative documentary film-making in the Arab world.

Dubai Film Connection (DFC) has selected 16 features and documentaries to present to potential investors, sales agents and co-producers. “We received a lot of submissions from Algeria this year, which is a new development,” says Williams. “We also received projects from young talent attached to short films in the DIFF line-up. So we have a mix of established and new film-makers, which is what we want.”

DFM’s Filmmart is also set for further expansion this year with the number of exhibition booths increasing from eight to 30. Exhibitors include regional players Dubai Film and Television Commission, Abu Dhabi’s twofour54, Doha Film Institute and Jordan’s Royal Film Commission, along with a French pavilion organised by Unifrance, the Ile de France Film Commission and broadcaster TV5.

Filmmart’s digital video library Cinetech will screen titles from the DIFF and Gulf Film Festival line-ups, along with films from DFM-registered sales agents and exhibitors. Cinetech will also screen 10 titles from DFM partners the Venice Film Festival, Cannes Market’s Doc Corner and the Biarritz Latin American film festival.

The market expects around 1,700 buyers, sellers and producers; similar to last year. “We’ve had more requests from international professionals, but Ventana Sur has postponed its dates [December 3-6], which makes it a bit more difficult for some buyers to attend,” says DFM international business manager Pascal Diot.

DFM is also providing a platform for distribution network MEDIS, pulling together around 20 distributors from across the Arab world. Spearheaded by the EU’s Euromed Audiovisual Programme, MEDIS was launched at DFM last year and will hold a general assembly at this year’s market on December 11.

Euromed will also hold a panel on tackling piracy during DFM’s Film Forum. The seven-day seminar and networking programme (December 7-13) also includes sessions with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Art Dubai and Sharjah Art Foundation, along with regional and international industry players.

Dubai Film Connection Line-up


  • A Reverence For Spiders Dir: Faiza Ambah (S Arab)
  • Bastard Dir: Uda Benyamina (Mor)
  • Chedda Dir: Damien Ounouri (Alg)
  • Gaza, DC Dir: Rashid Masharawi (Pal)
  • God Protect My Daughter Dir: Leyla Bouzid (Tun)
  • Heatwave Dir: Joyce A Nashawati (Leb)
  • Kharouf Dir: Ahmed Ibrahim (Egypt)
  • Trees Also Die Dir: Rabih El-Amine (Leb)
  • Until The End Of Time Dir: Yasmine Chouikh (Alg)
  • Men In The Sun Dir: Mahdi Fleifel (Pal)
  • The Flag Dir: Firas Khoury (Pal)


  • Dangerous Profiles Dir: Mark Lotfy (Egypt)
  • Even To China Dirs: Yanis Koussim, Mohamed Hireche (Alg)
  • Illusion Dir: Bavi Yassin (Iraq)
  • The Forgotten Dir: Ghada Terawi (Pal)
  • The True Story Behind Me Dir: Maryam S Jum’a (Jor)