A total of 17 films supported by Dubai’s Enjaaz programme are screening at this year’s edition of the festival, including Waleed Al Shehhi’s Dolphins and Mohammed Rashed Buali’s The Sleeping Tree, which are both receiving gala screenings.

The Muhr feature competition at this year’s DIFF also includes Enjaaz-supported features such as Goteborg winner Letter To The King and Yemen-set adaptation I Am Nujoom Age 10 And Divorced, along with documentaries such as Yahya Alabdallah’s The Council, Basam Fayed’s Diaires Of A Flying Dog and Nujoom Al Ghanem’s Nearby Sky.

“One of the major problems with producing great works of cinematic excellence is a lack of financial backing and industry support and programmes like Enjaaz can help complete films that may otherwise have not gained exposure,” says DIFF artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali. “We are delighted to see so many of the works we have backed go on to win international awards and wide acclaim.”

Lauched in 2007 as part of Dubai Film Market (DFM), Enjaaz supports post-production of Arab features, both fiction and documentary, up to a ceiling of $100,000. It also supports production of narrative shorts from filmmakers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, up to a ceiling of $50,000.

The programme’s past successes have included Hany Abu Assad’s Omar, which won a special jury prize at Cannes, Haifa Al Mansour’s Wadjda, which won a BAFTA and 20 other awards, and Mohamed Khan’s Factory Girl, which took two prizes at last year’s DIFF and is Egypt’s submission for the Oscars.

“The way DFM operates, we look for gaps in the market – see what challenges Arab filmmakers are facing –  and try to do something about it,” explains DFM manager Samr Al Marzooqi.

“We saw there was a lack of money to produce short films in the GCC and that filmmakers needed to work on shorts as a stepping stone. But there was less need to fund shorts outside the GCC as countries such as Lebanon and Egypt have had film industries for decades.”

However, DFM spotted a need for post-production funding right across the region.  “We saw that lots of films would start production, thinking they had enough money, but would go over-budget or just not have enough money for post or distribution,” Al Marzooqi adds. “Our aim was to make sure that these jewels don’t die.”

This year, Enjaaz has entered into a partnership with Emirates NBD, a leading banking group in the region, under which it is funding a selection of the programme’s feature films. In 2013, Watani Filmi played a similar role, and Enjaaz also collaborates with Abu Dhabi’s Image Nation on its GCC short films.

“We’ve realiased that the best way to make regional programmes sustainable is to enter into public-private partnerships,” says Al Marzooqi.

Support programmes such as Enjaaz and the funds established by the Abu Dhabi and Doha film festivals have become an essential component in film financing in the Arab world, especially as private institutions in the region are wary of investing in film.

Enjaaz has two annual funding cycles – concluding in February and July – and DIFF will announce the next round of grantees in February/March next year.

Full List of Enjaaz-supported films screening at DIFF 2014:

The Sleeping Tree – Mohammed Rashed Buali

Coffee For All Nations – Wafa Jamil

Nearby Sky – Nujoom Al Ghanem

The Council – Yahya Alabdallah

Diaries Of A Flying Dog – Bassem Fayad

In This Land Lay Graves Of Mine – Reine Mitri

The Sea Is Behind – Hicham Lasr

I’m Dead – Yacine Mohamed Benelhadj

A Long Night – Kamiran Betasi

Roshmia – Salim Abu Jabal

Bus 321 – Hussain Ali A. Almotlaq

Dolphins – Waleed Al Shehhi

Central Market – Saleh Nass

Bad Hunter – Sahim Omar Kalifa

I Am Nujoom Age 10 And Divorced – Khadija Al-Salami

A Letter To The King – Hisham Zaman

Sara 2014 – Khalil Al Mozayen