“There are two main challenges facing us,” says Dubai Intl. Film Festival chairman Abdulhamid Juma. “The first is the small number of films produced in the Arab world. The second is that there are more festivals that want to screen these films.” When DIFF burst onto the film festival landscape of Middle East and North Africa in 2004, it was a hot ticket. Set in the city’s then-brand new Jumeirah hotel complex, it was staffed by A-list professionals — from its programmers to its theater management team to its projectionists. In 2007, Dubai’s sister city of Abu Dhabi launched its Middle East Intl.
Film Festival (MEIFF). After screening a competition program with several distinguished regional features, MEIFF rebranded itself the Abu Dhabi Intl. Film Festival. That same year, the Gulf principality of Qatar (home of one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world) unveiled the Doha-Tribeca Film Festival. The latter had no adjudicated competition in 2009 and, running less than a week, it seemed miniature compared to DIFF and MEIFF/ABIFF. The combination of energy wealth under the ground and Tribeca’s brand weight, however, immediately made Doha-Tribeca a regional powerhouse.