Sixth edition opens today [April 11] with Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Wadjda.

With its largest lineup to date, the Gulf Film Festival (GFF) kicks off today [April 11] with Haifaa Al-Mansour’s Wadjda, with the writer-director among those in attendance.

This year’s sixth edition, which runs to April 17, will screen 169 films from 43 countries, of which 78 will be world premieres. GFF will also host 15 international premieres, 42 Middle East premieres and 6 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) premieres among its lineup, with all screenings free to the public.

Mohammed Jaber will be presented with a lifetime achievement award at the opening ceremony, along with a watch created by the festival’s official time partner IWC Schaffhausen, in recognition of the Kuwaiti playwright, actor and screenwriter’s achievements.

Abdulhamid Juma, GFF chairman, commented: “Our esteemed honoree this year is one of the artists who established the groundwork for the exciting, dynamic film community developing here in the GCC. We at GFF are working year on year to build on this legacy and to accommodate the astronomical growth of the film industry in the Gulf, from promoting our established artists to developing up and coming talents.”

Among the other guests attending the festival are Yousry Nasrallah, Ossama Fawzi, Saeed Salmeen Al Muri, Waleed Al Shehhee and Mohammad Hassan Ahmed.

Outside the competition films, the festival hosts three Official Selection programmes: short film selection Lights, Intersections, which favours bold subjects and stylised films from around the world, and Films for Children, a selection of animated and short films for young audiences.

GFF festival director Masoud Amralla Al Ali added: “Each year our high expectations of audience turnout, enthusiasm and energy are far exceeded, and we are confident that 2013 will be no different. From increased industry activities to more free public screenings, we have done our utmost to welcome film lovers and industry professionals alike from the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.”

This year will also see the launch of the inaugural Gulf Film Market, which runs April 14-17 and offers several initiatives for GCC nationals in the film business at all levels.

The Investment Corporation of Dubai is GFF’s presenting sponsor and the festival is supported by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, in association with Dubai Studio City.

For the full lineup, visit GFF’s website.