The third Doha Tribeca Film Festival opened last night with the world premiere of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Black Gold, attended by its stars Freida Pinto, Mark Strong and Tahar Rahim.

The $55m epic Arabic adventure follows the rivalry of two emirs set against the backdrop of the 1930s Arab states. It’s other star, Antonio Banderas, is expected to arrive at the festival tomorrow night.

James Horner, who scored the film, was also at the world premiere at Doha’s open-air 2000 seat Katara theatre, where producer Tarak Ben Ammar told the audience: “30 years ago I had a dream to make a film about Arabs to make the Arabs proud,” before dedicating the film to “the young women and men of Tunisia who sacrificed their lives for Tunisian democracy.”

“Six years ago before I even knew we were making the picture I met a young Princess, Sheikha Mayassa who had a vision to put her country on the film map with the Doha Film Festival.  This film is the proof of that,” he added.

Executive director of the Doha Film Institute Amanda Palmer introduced the screening, which despite running late was followed by a lavish afterparty at the InterContinental Doha.

Produced by the Doha Film Institute and Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications, Black Gold shot in Tunisia, during the Arab Spring revolutions in the country last year, and in Qatar’s Mesaieed desert dunes using local crew.

Speaking at Tuesday’s press conference, which took place the day after the Tunisian people voted in their first democratic election, Ben Ammar called it a “historic day, not just for the film, but for the Tunisian people.”

Ben Ammar said he hoped the film, which is being distributed around the world by Warner Bros and Universal, was the “beginning of a new era, showing the Arab world in a completely different way. We have so many stories we are proud of.”

He also revealed that he is due to begin shooting in two weeks for his next project, about iconic figure Mohamed Bouazizi, whose actions led to the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and the overthrowing of Tunisian President Zein El-Abedin Ben Ali. Shooting will take place entirely in Tunisia.

The world premiere of Black Gold kicked off five days of industry talks, panels, screenings and masterclasses as part of the third Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

A host of international talent will be in town including Robert De Niro, Rob Lowe, Pawel Pawlikowski and Egyptian star Omar Sharif, who will attend a special outdoor screening of his 1991 film An Egyptian Citizen (Al Muwaten Masri), as well as talking to students of Qatar University’s Mass Communications programme during the festival.

Early indications suggest that the festival is now not only on the international radar, but on the local one, with ticket sales up on last year and extra screenings being added to accomodate demand after some events had sold out in advance.

Meanwhile, this year’s newly expanded Arab Film Competition will see 14 features (seven narrative and seven documentaries) competing for cash prizes of $100,000. Nick Broomfield is heading up the documentary jury, whilst Syrian director Mohammed Malas will chair the narrative jury which also features US actress Robin Wright, Lebanese actress Carmen Lebbos, Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo and Golden Bear-winning filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic.

The festival will close on Oct 29 with a special performance from international pop star Leona Lewis following the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) premiere of The Lady, attended by the director Luc Besson.