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Dubai International Film Festival

Thursday 21 March 2019 (UAE)   

Dubai International Film Festival / Dubai Film Festival (DIFF)

The correct name is 'Dubai International Film Festival', or DIFF, but it is often just called the 'Dubai Film Festival'. The DIFF is held annually, under the auspices of Dubai Media City, in early December. The first Dubai Film Festival in 2004 was regarded as very successful by the organisers and cinema-goers. In 2005, the DIFF saw the popular films sold out well in advance and it was attended by a range of industry personnel and celebrities. The 2006 film festival was just as successful, with long queues of hopeful patrons waiting for spare tickets at major screenings (and usually missing out - book early for the good ones).

The film festival is one of those events that is really worth making an effort to attend, with the opportunity to see films you're unlikely to see as a normal release, especially as there are almost no independent cinemas in Dubai. You also get to listen to some commentary from one or more of the directors, actors, actresses, producers as many of the films have them attending in the flesh and answering questions before and after a showing. An excellent, sober, cultural, memorable alternative to the usual booze-fuelled events like the Dubai Rugby 7s (also good fun, but for different reasons), which is on a week or two before the Dubai Film Festival.

The austere and highly respected journal of current affairs (ahem), The USA Today, included the DIFF in a July 2007 article called 'Where in the World are the Hottest Film Fests?'. Other events that made it into the list with DIFF included Cannes, the Locarno Festival, the London Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, and Sundance. We're at a loss to explain how such obscure events made it on to the same list as the DIFF.

As Dubai Media City (DMC) is a free zone in Dubai, films are not subject to censorship (even though most films are shown in locations outside the free zone). Apparently. Anyway, astute viewers will notice that, whatever the reason, uncut versions of films are shown. Don't expect to see anything hard core though.

Some film screenings are at the Madinat Jumeirah or Dubai Media City, but most are shown at the Mall of the Emirates (MOTE) cinema complex.

For residents of Dubai with an interest in the film industry and some spare time, the DIFF needs volunteers to help run the film festival. Volunteers are unpaid but get to see the films and go to other DIFF events. Apply via the DIFF website a month or two before the event.

There is usually a focus on attempting to showcase regional Arab and Iranian films in addition to internationally acclaimed new releases. DIFF also serves as an event to inspire and encourage the Dubai and UAE film industry (although Dubollywood is not quite up there with Hollywood and Bollywood yet, and no one will ever be able to pronounce UAEollywood).

The associated organisations, DIFF Industry Office and the Dubai Film Connection, support and encourage regional Arab film producers and directors with various initiatives and information exchange platforms, with links to ART (Saudi Arabia), Good News Group (Egypt), Royal Film Commission (Jordan), Sundance Institute (USA), Meda Films Development (Morocco), Berlinale (Germany), the World Cinema Fund, and the Producers Network in Cannes.

  • Shivani Pandya has been managing director of the Dubai International Film Festival since it started in 2004.
  • Chairman of the DIFF is Abdulhamid Juma.
Dubai International Film Festival awards and prizes
  • $15,000 Screen Institute Beirut DIFF Documentary Award to a documentary film under development and included in the Dubai Film Connection. First award at DIFF 2010, announced 15 September 2010.
DIFF and Capital Regions for Cinema (CRC)
  • DIFF has initiated a cooperation partnership with the Capital Regions for Cinema (CRC) group which will facilitate liasons between film industries in the European and Arab regions (press release 29 September 2010).
  • CRC members will participate in the Dubai Film Market in December 2010.
  • CRC was founded in 2005 and is a network of the film agencies Berlin-Brandenburg (Germany), the Comunidad de Madrid (Spain), Paris-Ile de France (France), and Rome-Lazio (Italy)

2012 Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF 2012) - 9th edition

  • DIFF 2012 dates from 09-16 December 2012.
  • New award for DIFF 2012 is the The Filmmaker Award with a prize of $100,000, funded by IWC Schaffhausen, a Swiss watchmaker. Film entries should be with directors from a GCC country, producers can be any nationality. Closing date for entries is 31 August 2012, winner announced 10 December 2012.
  • Monthly film sceenings on the last Mon, Tue, Wed of each month (except December) starting 27 August 2012 at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai, free entry (first come, first served). Schedule is Aug 2012 - Entertainment Legends (films about musical icons including John Lennon and Bob Marley), Sep 2012 - Iranian cinema, Oct 2012 - Halloween films. December 2012 film nights on 17, 18, and 19 December 2012 (press release 15 Aug 2012?).

2011 Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF 2011) - 8th edition

  • To be updated

2010 Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF 2010) - 7th edition

  • DIFF 2010 dates 12-19 December 2010
  • Film categories include Arabian Nights, Cinema of Asia-Africa, Cinema for Children, Cinema from India, Cinema of the World, Gulf Voices, Lifetime Achievement.
  • DIFF 2010 partners include Dubai Studio City and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. Main sponsors include Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline, Madinat Jumeirah.

2009 Dubai International Film Festival - Bridging Cultures, Meeting Minds

  • DIFF 2009 dates 09-16 December 2009 (6th edition)
  • Main sponsors are Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Pearl, Emirates Airline, Madinat Jumeirah.
2009 DIFF Volunteer Program
  • DIFF is looking for over 500 volunteers to help with the film festival. Press release 02 November 2009 didn't say what the benefits were but you probably get a few free tickets and maybe a chance to get a movie star autograph.
  • Dates for application on 17, 22, 29 November 2009, location Dubai Knowledge Village Auditorium, time 1800-2000 (6pm-8pm)
  • 17 November 2009 date is only for UAE Nationals. All nationalities can apply on 22nd and 29th.
  • Applications must be made online at DIFF website, and confirm by email to diffcolunteer@tecom.ae.
  • Orientation sessions will be held before the Dubai Film Festival commences.
2009 DIFF jobs
  • Temporary jobs available for 250 people in Accreditation, Customer Service, DIFF Box Office, Dubai Film Market, Events Management, Guest Relations, Hospitality, Industry Office, Registration, Theatre Operations. Training provided.
  • DIFF Careers Fair on Sunday 01 September 2009 at Knowledge Village Conference Rooms 1 and 2 from 0900-1800 (9am-6pm).
  • Job applicants should be 21 years or older, and legally resident in the UAE.
  • Send a CV or Resume to diffcareers@tecom.ae.

2008 Dubai International Film Festival

2007 Dubai International Film Festival - Bridging Cultures, Meeting Minds

Full DIFF film program available from the DIFF website, same schedule usually reprinted in daily UAE newspapers. DIFF 2007 Festival Guide booklet is available from box offices, and is much easier to navigate for details of films than the DIFF website.

Ticket deals Price Notes
Standard tickets 25 dhs Not for Gala or Rhythm & Reels screenings
25 TIX deal 500 dhs 25 standard tickets for the price of 20
10 TIX deal 225 dhs 10 standard tickets for the price of 9
Day Pass deal 300 dhs 20 standard tickets for screenings before 6pm, one per show only
Red Carpet Gala tickets 80 dhs Children 50 dhs for Cinema for Children Gala only
Red Carpet deal 375 dhs 1 ticket for each gala screening 10-14 December 2007
Screen on the Green Free Ticket still needed, arrive early. Not Rhythm & Reel screenings.
Rhythm & Reels 175 dhs Dubai Media City amphitheatre film + concert
Rhythm & Reels deal 450 dhs 1 ticket to each Rhythm & Reel show 13-15 Dec 2007

Tickets available online, or at box offices (10am-10pm) in Mall of the Emirates, Grand Cineplex, Souk Madinat, Dubai Media City CNN building (10am-6pm), or tel DIFF +971-4-3676701.

  • DIFF 2007 - forum topic - ask questions, add your comments
  • Opening night Gala is Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney. But don't worry if you miss out, it's in Dubai cinemas from 13 December 2007.
  • 09-16 December 2007 at Madinat Jumeirah. About 40,000 attendees expected.
  • Volunteers to assist with organisation are needed - about 600 of them. You'll get opportunities to see films for free and meet industry personnel. Apply online at www.dubaifilmfest.com (you have to be over 15 yrs old).
  • Based on the previous film festivals, book early for the films you really want to see. The big ones will be sold out quite quickly shortly after ticket sales are launched. Their website has an email sign up on the home page so you can be informed when ticket sales start.
  • Well known attendees included
    • Sharon Stone (a well-ventilated female thespian) who hosted the amfAR AIDS Research fundraiser
    • George Clooney - does anyone not know who he is?
    • Rachel Bilson (from The OC - a TV series)
    • Amara Karan (British/Sri Lankan actress in The Darjeeling Limited)
    • Gloria Estefan (a singer)
    • Sarah Shahi (US actress, and cheerleader, of Iranian/Spanish descent - starred in The L Word, which did not screen at DIFF)
    • Michelle Yeoh (Malaysian actress)
    • Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistani-American author of The Kite Runner)
  • There are 9 programs for the film festival:
    1. The Cultural Bridge - the highlight of DIFF for 2007, a selection of features and documentaries that help build cross-cultural bridges. The program will include a related panel discussion. And now you know where the festival motto comes from - 'Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds'.
    2. Arabian Nights - features, short films and documentaries from Arab and non-Arab filmmakers showcasing contemporary Arab cinema.
    3. A Celebration of Indian Cinema - intended to reflect the strong links between Dubai and India, and featuring the latest films from Bollywood and other independent cinema from India.
    4. The Cinema of the World - important and original films from North and South America, Australasia, Turkey, Iran and Europe.
    5. The Cinema of Asia - new and noteworthy films from East and South Asia - Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines.
    6. The Cinema of Africa - films from the African continent, south of the Sahara.
    7. Destination Documentary - non-fiction & non-Arab documentaries from around the world, focusing on social, political and ecological issues.
    8. Emerging Emiratis - Arab cinema from UAE filmmakers. The DIFF provides a great opportunity for Emirati film producers to show their work to the international film community.
    9. Children's Cinema - a few flicks for the kiddies, but not just the latest from Walt Disney or Pixar (can anyone actually spell Ratatouille?). An international selection of films with the common theme that they appeal to children, or adults who still like watching the Flintstones. Yabadabadoo!
  • The DIFF Industry Office introduce a number of new initiatives for Arab filmmakers including a project market, a producer's training program, and a screenwriting master class.
  • DIFF has entered into a strategic alliance with the Cannes Producers Network and initiated the Dubai Film Connection program to encourage the production of Arabic language films. Three Arab film producers will win $15,000 and attend the Cannes 2008 networking event. They'll be chosen on the basis of current filmmaking projects.
  • Organising and Management Personnel involved with the DIFF 2007
    • DIFF Chairman - Abdulhamid Juma
    • DIFF Managing Director - Shivani Pandya
    • DIFF Artistic Director of International Programming - Simon Field
    • Other programmers - Fahad Al Khaja, Hannah Fischer, Sheila Whitaker, Uma Da Cunha
Rhythm & Reels

Rhythm & Reels is a series of movies and live concerts at the Dubai Media City amphitheatre, headlined by the world premiere of 90 Mille - a film about Latin American music. The film will be followed by a performance from Floria Estefan - the first time for her in the Middle East.

DIFF 2007 update 24 December 2007
  • 45,000 people watched a movie - up 35% from 2006.
  • 77 films were sold out (out of a total of about 140 films).
  • Gloria Estafan performance had a crowd of 5000 at the Dubai Media City amphitheatre.
  • Axis of Evil, a comedy act, also performed as part of the film festival.
  • Closing party was at Lisalli Fort.

2006 Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF)

  • 10-17 December 2006. Expecting 30,000 audience participants, 100 celebrities, 550 filmmakers, 100+ films to be screened.
  • Celebrities expected to attend included Morgan Freeman, Richard Gere, Oliver Stone, Shah Rukh Khan (or King Khan - a Bollywood star).
  • Opening night film "Bobby", written and directed by Emilio Estevez. Premiered at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, received a standing ovation, and was nominated for a Golden Lion Award. Other films on the schedule include:
    • "Khiyana Shareyyah" (Justified Cheating), director Khalid Youssef.
    • Kabul Express, director (and writer) Khabir Khan. Premier screening at Toronto International Film Festival.
  • Attending celebrities included Mos Def, Richard Gere, Oliver Stone, Laurence Fishburne, Joshua Jackson, Robin Tunney, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Ahmed Helmi, Mohammed Khan, Mervat Amine, Leila Eloui, Shah Rukh Khan, Sushma Reddy, Kabir Khan, John Abraham, and Prince Albert II of Monaco.
  • Neil Stephenson, CEO and Festival Director stepped down after the 2006 Dubai film festival.
DIFF contact details
  • Dubai International Film Festival
  • PO Box 53777, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Tel +971-4-3913378, fax +971-4-3914616, email diffinfo@dubaimediacity.ae or diffinfo@tecom.ae.
MINI Film Festival 2007

The MINI Film Festival 2007, supported by BMW Group Middle East and DIFF, is open for submissions until 01 November 2007. Amateur filmmakers from the region can submit short films up to 15 minutes long. The theme for the 2007 MINI Film Festival is "INCREDIBLY _______". Film submission must adhere to Islamic and local customs, and not contain any nudity or political content. The term MINI can be seen to mean both a short film, and a reference to the MINI car manufactured by BMW.

  • Top 10 finalists will be announced 17 November 2007. A Gala Screening on 29 November 2007 (invitation only) will show the finalist's films and announce the winners. Prizes are a computer with 30" screen, a video camera, a film course, and €1000.
  • The MINI Film Festival 2006 was the first such event and attracted 55 entries from the Middle Eastern region.
Last update Friday 14-Sep-2012
Related pages
Related websites (new window)
  • www.dubaifilmfest.com - official Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) website, online booking available when tickets are released.
  • www.difftickets.com - online website for DIFF ticket bookings and purchases
  • www.mini-me.com - MINI Middle East website with MINI Film Festival information


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