The thirdDubai International Film Festival has opened with a premiere of Bobby and evident grand plans to becomean industry centrepoint of the Middle East. As Cairo's festival wrappedwith honours going to Zhang Jiarui'sThe Road and Marrakech saw its top prize going to DominikGraf's The Red Cockatoo - heavyweight Dubainow steps into the region's competitive frame with its $325,000 purse for theinaugural Murrawards for Arab cinema (narrativefeatures, documentaries and shorts).

With a newindustry office operating out of Dubai for the first time, international guestsare holding panel sessions with Middle Eastern film-makers, an exchange ofideas which will culminate in the Operation Cultural Bridge panel on Friday tobe attended by Richard Gere, Oliver Stone, UTV chiefRonnie Screwvala; Maji-da Abdi, producer of Bamako;Egyptian directorMohammed Khan and EncounterPoint's co-director and co-writer Julia Bacha.The panel will be moderated by Al JazeeraInternational's Riz Khan.

Internationalindustry guests at Dubai this year include Fortissimo co-chairmen Michael J.Werner and Wouter Barendrecht,the Binger Lab's Ido Abram, Strand's Marcus Hu and Jon Gerrans, BarrieOsborne, Laird Adamson (HDNet Films International)and Iain Canning (head of acquisitions, Becker Films International). Furtherpanels, hosted by Screen International'seditor in chief Colin Brown, include with Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha, and with Silk'sproducers Niv Fichman and Sonoko Sakai for a case study of the upcoming Silk with world premiere clips from thefeature.

Thecelebrity line-up is a more mixed bunch, starting with MosDef's surprising rap performance at the gala openingnight party introduced by Bobby'sLaurence Fishburne, including his Bobby co-star JoshuaJackson andhis girlfriend Diane Kruger and running to DesperateHousewives' Jesse Metcalf and his girlfriend, UK girl group tabloid fixtureNadine Coyle.