Gulf Film Festival

All you need to know about the Gulf Film Festival


Let’s start with the basics: the Gulf Film Festival is an annual event that provides filmmakers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq and Yemen with the chance to screen their films, and gives us a chance to be shocked. Yes, shocked, and in the best of ways; what the festival really does is show us the region through the eyes of its most creative, daring artists. Expect films on everything from the evolution of plastic surgery in the Middle East to social fissures in the Arab world.

Festival director Masoud Amralla Al Ali explains: ‘Films get made in this region because of the Gulf Film Festival. In Saudi Arabia, for example, before the GFF began, there were only a few films made per year. No one knew anything about films being made in Yemen, and there was no space anywhere for filmmakers from Kuwait, Bahrain or Qatar. Now, we have filmmakers who return to GFF every year, who make their films only for us; they have paved the way for film festivals and filmmakers to sprout in every one of the Gulf countries.’

This year’s event focuses on films from France’s experimental legend Gérard Courant, but GFF also houses Gulf-wide and student competitions and, for the first time, an international shorts competition. Outside of that, you’ll still find plenty of random films to view, including everything from kids’ flicks and comedy to horror and drama. And as a special treat for filmmakers, Gulf Film Festival 2011 will offer plenty of seminars and lectures, including a workshop with renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. The classes span 10 days, during which time students will brainstorm, develop and shoot a short film. ‘Enough of lectures, sitting in the classroom or writing. Let’s make our films now!’ says Abbas.

If you’re still not sure whether to make the trip to Festival City next week, did we mention that all screenings are free?

The Gulf Film Festival takes place on April 14-20, with films screened noon-midnight at Grand Cinemas in Festival City. For info and a timetable, keep an eye on

Time Out’s GFF film picks

Director: Nujoom Alghanem (UAE)
Genre: Documentary
Synopsis: Hamama tells the story of a 90-year-old female healer, a living legend in the Emirates, and her personal and social challenges. The film originally screened at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2010, and won the Special Jury Muhr Emirati award.

Director: Sophia Al-Maria (Qatar)
Genre: Drama, fantasy, western
Synopsis: A UAE premiere, Kanary is a coming-of-age story about an alienated Qatari teenager (Najla), who rebels against her family and their rules. But when she is caught riding in a car with a boy, a dramatic duel between father and daughter ensues.

Director: Khalid Al Mahmood (UAE)
Genre: Family drama
Synopsis: Two young boys spend their days growing vegetables and selling them on the roadside, in an effort to support their ailing grandmother. The road is their living, and the road will determine their destiny. Sabeel is the only Khaleeji film to be selected for screening at Berlinale 2011; one of two Arab films there this year.

The Desert Angels
Director: Khalid Al Kalbani (Oman)
Genre: Documentary drama
Short synopsis: A story about a man who tries to leave a life of racial discrimination and be part of a new world, one where he could live happily with his daughter. Difficulties arise, and he soon
has to leave his daughter to the desert to follow his dream.

The Singer
Director: Kassem Hawal (Iraq)
Genre: Drama, musical, political thriller
Synopsis: During the official celebration of an Iraqi dictator’s birthday, a singer is expected in the palace. The guests arrive and the festivities commence, but the singer’s car breaks down. After many difficulties he finally arrives at the venue, but his delay has provoked the dictator’s anger.

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