The Middle East International Film Festival is set to announce its director
today. Jon Fitzgerald, who co-founded Slamdance, was Director of Festivals at the American Film Institute (AFI) between 1997 and 1999, and later an executive director of Santa Barbara International Film Festival, will head up the inaugural festival, which takes place in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi, Oct 12-17.

'Jon is perfect for the position, given his previous experience and great
connections,' Nashwa Al Ruwaini, the festival's executive director, and CEO of production company Pyramedia, told

'I was struck by Abu Dhabi's commitment to developing a lasting impression and the potential impact on the regional and international arts community,' said Fitzgerald. 'The opportunity to work with Pyramedia to create a unique event and to provide emerging filmmakers with a production grant is unmatched.'

Fitzgerald will announce his programming team and details of the festival's structure in the next few weeks, said Ruwaini, who confirmed that the festival includes a conference on film finance, in addition to screenings. 'We want to be the Davos of the film industry,' said Ruwaini, referring to the meeting of the World Economic Forum.

The festival is competitive, with its Black Pearl awards open to
international directors, although details of the criteria are not yet
available. Grand Jury prizewinners will be awarded with a production grant, bestowed by the Abu Dhabi Film Fund, towards their next project.

The extent of the support from the fund for winning filmmakers will be decided on a case-by-case basis. 'I am sure the Abu Dhabi government is open-minded to new and exciting ventures,' said Ruwaini. 'We don't want to limit ourselves.' The TV producer and presenter added that the fund has received a few interesting proposals already. 'We might be late in coming to the party, but we don't leave early.'