Dolphins, Abood Kandaishan and Cairo Time are the among the first titles set to be released theatrically in the Middle East thanks to the Dubai Film Market’s new distribution programme.

Under the new DFM initiative, called the Dubai Distribution Programme, six Middle East distributors have agreed to acquire at least one Arab title from the DIFF line-up and release it theatrically in the region.

In exchange, the DFM and DIFF have agreed to promote the release through its platforms and networks.

“We’re over the moon with this first year. I’ve never seen the local distributors as engaged in the market as this year. The programme has created a real buzz around the Arab titles in the selection,” said DFM chief Samr Al Marzooqi.

Many of the deals are still being finalised but Al Marzooqi was able to report a handful of early acquisitions.

As previously reported Dubai-based exhibitor and distributor VOX, which operates cinemas in the UAE, Oman and Lebanon, has picked up Waleed Al Shehhi’s debut feature Dolphins for release in the Gulf.

Baghdad-based Iraqi Cinemas has also picked up Dolphins for Iraq and has also acquired Egyptian filmmaker Amir Ramses’ ensemble work Cairo Time about six interconnected lives.

Gulf Films has acquired rights for the Gulf to Emirati film Abood Kandaishan, a comedy shot guerrilla-style by up-and-coming director Fadel Almheiri.

Selected for DIFF’s Muhr Emirati section, Abood Kandaishan received a free public screening on the beach where it prompted an enthusiastic audience reaction.

The other distributors in the programme – Empire and Front Row Filmed Entertainment, which is participating alongside business partner Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC) – are in final discussions for the titles they have selected.

In a deal done prior to Dubai, Empire is gearing up to release Ali Mostafa’s pan-Arab road movie From A To B, which screened in the Arabian Nights selection, in January.

The distributors are also in discussions with each other on the scheduling of each film. “They want to make sure that the releases are spread out and each film is given time to breathe,” Al Marzooqi said.

While From A to B will be distributed in January, its expected that Dolphins will be released in February and Abood Kandaishan in March.

“We are delighted with the stellar success of the initiative and the engagement of distributors thus far,” said DIFF managing director Shivani Pandya. “We are confident that local film enthusiasts will support the initiative by watching these films in their local cinemas and ensuring both success and longevity for the program.”

The remaining acquisition deals will be reported soon…