From left: Alice Kharoubi, selector and programmer of the Short Film Festival (ADFF), Eisa Saif Rashid Al Mazroui, project director of ADFF, Peter Scarlet, executive director of ADFF and Ali Al Jabri, head of the Emirates Competition ADFF. Image Credit: Alex Westcott/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Of the 91 films chosen to be screened at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010 Emirates Competition and Short Film Competition, 49 are by female filmmakers, it was revealed at a press conference highlighting the two sections on Monday.

Abu Dhabi Film Festival executive director Peter Scarlett said: "Short films suffer from a type of snobbery".

"People think that it is harder to do a feature film or that a short film is a testing ground for filmmakers ... but in fact, they [feature length and short films] are two different art forms," he said.

"That is why it is important to have a short film section in any festival ... it is a platform not only to showcase works by established filmmakers but also works by students that may otherwise never be screened."

A record total of 1,334 films were submitted this year for both sections. And this was the first year female filmmakers from the UAE and the Gulf submitted works for the Emirates Film Competition.

Aggressive campaign

Ali Al Jaberi, Head of the Emirates Competition, said the organisation was surprised by just how many female filmmakers submitted works for this year's festival.

"Part of the reason for that was probably because of the aggressive campaign we conducted this year to encourage filmmakers to participate," Al Jaberi said.

"I even spoke to several of the female filmmakers to convince them that this year's festival was different and that it was worth submitting their works to participate. Hopefully, this will provide them with an opportunity to show their films at other international festivals."

For the Short Film Competition, Selector and Programmer Alice Kharoubi said that not only had participation increased from last year, but several filmmakers had returned to screen their works.

"This year, we received 1,200 submissions and it was a difficult process to choose the 44 films that will be a part of this year's line-up," Kharoubi said.

"In the end films representing 25 countries were selected and of those, a quarter is from the Middle East and 15 are by female filmmakers."

Regarding the issue of whether organisers had difficulty being able to select films suited to the region's sensitivities, ADFF Project Director Eisa Saif Rashid Al Mazroui said they were able to reach a good balance.

"Many filmmakers had taken into consideration our culture and values when they submitted their works ... but at the same time, films cannot be censored at international festivals, including ADFF," Al Mazroui said.

"However, we have managed to find a balance without sacrificing anything from either side."

Competition: Region in focus

This year for the first time, the Emirates Competition (formerly Emirates Film Competition) will be presented under the banner of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. In this Black Pearl Awards programme, projects by filmmakers from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE, as well as those with a strong focus on the region's culture or history, compete for prizes between Dh10,000, ($2,700) and Dh35,000.

Awards are in five categories: short narratives, short documentaries, student short narratives, student short documentaries and script competition. All projects that meet the Festival's general requirements for submission are also considered for selection in the international Short Film Competition.

About the short film competition 

The Short Film Competition is open to films with a running time of 35 minutes or less and invites submissions of narrative and documentary shorts, including student projects, from all over the world. The films nominated for this Black Pearl Awards section compete for prizes ranging from Dh18,300 ($5,000) to Dh91,800 in five categories: best narrative short, best documentary short, best short from the Arab World, best animated short and best student short.