One of the most important additions to this year's Diff is the Dubai Film Market (DFM), an initiative set up to encourage regional and international film production and trade, as well as raising the profile of world cinema.
Worthy aspirations, but does the world need another film market' Ziad Yaghi, director of the Dubai Film Market, believes so, having given up his role as an acquisitions executive with Arab satellite TV and radio network Orbit to head the project.
"To start with, there's the fact no global content market currently exists in the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region. There was a traditional one in Cairo, but it was cancelled," Yaghi explains.
Given the media market in the region is booming, it looks as if Dubai fills a gap. As Yaghi says: "The Mena TV market is comparable in size to that of the US, with more than 36 million people. We've got very high satellite TV penetration, over 85%, with some 350 satellite TV channels in operation. Box office too is very strong, particularly in the GCC, where this summer has seen record ticket sales. Add to that home-video sell, which is set to top the $64m mark by 2011, and you're looking at a massive demand for content. Let's not be shy about it, much of that content currently comes from the US and Europe."
At present, the big local players have to travel long-haul to make their acquisitions: "At the moment they go to (Cannes) or to Mipcom. Having a film market of our own will make things much easier," reasons Yaghi.
And with economic downturn in the West, these local players could be more important than ever. Content owners looking to sell to the Middle Eastern market will also find everything they need in Dubai. "Because of its location and political stability, the UAE is now home to the Middle East's media industry. If you want to sell content to the Middle East, chances are you'll find the person you need to speak to in Dubai," says Yaghi.
Sellers are not the only ones set to gain. This year's inaugural DFM focuses on Arab, Asian and African films, giving buyers from all over the world the chance to acquire them and raise the visibility of world cinema.
And one of the most exciting elements is a new system of acquiring films called Cinetech - the result of a ground-breaking digital partnership with Hewlett-Packard. Essentially a digitised content library, Cinetech will initially hold around 250 feature films, short films and documentaries - the 170 films showcased at Diff, 50 more titles selected for their quality by the Diff panel and up to 30 other works from GCC film-makers.
"Cinetech will allow registered buyers to browse content by synopsis, and critically, it will let them get in touch directly with the relevant rights holder," explains Yaghi. "What's more, unlike traditional film markets where people hand out DVDs, discretion comes as standard. Your competitors won't know what you've bought because negotiations can happen in private."
The intention is to expand rapidly the library's repertoire for Diffs to come: "The Dubai Film Market will revolutionise the way content acquisition takes place here, providing people involved in the TV, home video and film industries with a networking platform for discovering future trends and trading content on a global level," says Yaghi.
"We aim to help talented regional film-makers find audiences quickly and efficiently," says Patricia Todd, the Middle East marketing director, personal systems group of Hewlett-Packard.
The hope is the DFM will act as a matchmaker and give people the platform they need to do business. "Traditionally, Arab film-makers have been unable to make more than three films in their careers because it takes so long to gather funds and they haven't had a platform on which to sell," says Yaghi. "In the past few years, Diff has given them a platform to showcase their work. Now it will provide them with the mechanism to achieve the sales that will fund their next projects."
Diff chairman Abdulhamid Juma has high hopes for the DFM. "Here in Dubai, we love to be pioneers, and I hope others take this idea and adapt it for their own purposes. By the time they do, though, I'm pretty sure we will have moved on."