Co-production market running Dec 9-11 during the Dubai International Film Festival unveils line-up.

Hiam Abbass

Lebanese actress Hiam Abbass [pictured] and Palestinian director Najwa Najjar will be among the film-makers presenting their upcoming feature film projects at the Dubai Film Connection (DFC) this year.

The annual co-production event, focused on Arab cinema and taking place during the Dubai International Film Festival (Dec 7-14), unveiled its upcoming line-up on Monday (Nov 7).


A total of 13 projects – hailing from Lebanon, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Morocco – have been selected.

Abbass will present her second feature-length film A Girl Made Of Dust, an adaptation of Nathalie Abi-Ezzi’s acclaimed novel about the experiences of a family living in a village near Beirut during the 1980s Lebanese civil war, told from the perspective of its youngest member, the eight-year-old daughter Ruba.

Najjar – who won the top prize at the DFC in 2011 for her last film Eyes Of A Thief – returns with The Son Of A Very Important Man, revolving around the divorce of the son of a famous Palestinian revolutionary from his Nazareth-born wife and the complications that arise from the fact that they hail from either side of the Green Line.

Other film-makers attending include Iraq’s Mohanad Hayal – whose hard-hitting short film Happy Birthday about children caught up in the Iraqi conflict screened at the Berlinale in 2013.

He will present his Baghdad-set drama Haifa Street (previously entitled Death Street) revolving around the death of a groom by a sniper shot on the day of his wedding day.

Respected Lebanese documentary maker Eliane Raheb will also attend with factual feature The Great Family about a woman - brought up in France by adoptive parents - who discovers she is descended from a Palestinian family who were caught up in the siege of the Tel al-Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut in 1976.

Egyptian director Nadine Khan will reveal fresh details of her second feature In The Land Of Wonder, a Cairo-set version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Growing legacy

The DFC has helped more than 50 Arab feature films come to fruition since its creation in 2007, including recent festival hits Kaouther Ben Hania’s Zaineb Hates The Snow, Mahmoud Al Massad’s Blessed Benefit, and Fares Naanaa’s Border of Heaven.

Aside from meeting with potential partners, the attendees will be in the running for five cash prizes: the $10,000 Cinescape/Front Row Award, the $10,000 ART Award; $25,000 from DIFF and $5,500 (€5,000) from the International Organisation of La Francophonie

“The support provided by the DFC is vital for the growth of the regional film-making industry as the film-makers and their projects include a vast range of explorative themes and intimate stories from the region, helping the cinematic excellence of the UAE and the Middle East gain global recognition,” commented DIFF managing director Shivani Pandya.

DFC director Jane Williams, who oversees the selection, added:  “It is really fulfilling to be able to provide rewarding prospects to the talented producers from the Arab world, contributing to the future of the filmmakers as individuals and the flourishing industry as a whole.”

The complete Dubai Film Connection line-up:

  • A Girl Made of Dust, dir. Hiam Abbass (Lebanon)
  • Algeria Is Still Far Away, dir. Omar Haffaf (Algeria/France)
  • Farha, dir. Darin Sallam (Jordan)
  • From A Palm Tree to the Stars, dir. Leila Albayaty (Iraq/France)
  • Haifa Street, dir. Mohanad Hayal (Iraq)
  • In The Land Of Wonder, dir. Nadine Khan (Egypt)
  • Life = Cinematic Imperfections, dir. Avedis Kaprealian, (Syria/Lebanon)
  • The Great Family, dir. Eliane Raheb (Lebanon)
  • The Treasure, dir. Abdellah Taïa (Morocco/France)
  • Touda, dir. Daoud Aoulad Syad (Morocco)
  • The Son of a Very Important Man, dir. Najwa Najjar (Palestine)
  • The Notebooks, dir. Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, (Lebanon)
  • Western Arabs, dir. Omar Jarl Shargawi (Denmark, Egypt and Palestine)