Magazine article Screen International

DFM Discusses Distribution Challenges

Magazine article Screen International

DFM Discusses Distribution Challenges

Article excerpt

A Dubai Film Market (DFM) panel discussed the challenges in distributing Arab films in the region and internationally, and how Emirati filmmaker Ali Mostafa's From A To B may become a game-changer.

The film is set to receive a groundbreaking theatrical release across nine Middle Eastern territories on some 60 screens at the beginning of January.

By US, European or Chinese standards, 60 screens may not seem a big deal but in a region where the widest releases - even for high-profile Hollywood titles - are on 120 screens, distributor Empire International's plans for From A To B are ambitious.

Arab films, bar a few Egyptian star vehicles, rarely travel beyond their territories of origin in the region, or further afield in Europe and the US, and often even have a hard time finding distribution at home.

This issue was at the heart of the DFM talk on Friday entitled "What are the challenges of distributing Arab Films?" The panel looked at the prospects for pan-Arab releases as well as distribution into Europe and the US.

"I'm not sure the situation for Arab cinema that comes to Europe is so different from that of other international cinema which is not European," said Irit Neidhardt of Berlin-based Mec Film, which specialises in distributing Middle East works in Germany.

"It is becoming more and more difficult to distribute these films theatrically. If we look at the quantity of films that reach Germany through festivals and institutions, there are much more films shown now but they don't get German distributors. They're seen in special programmes but not on the regular cinema circuit."

She commented that VOD did not offer much of a solution for Arab cinema in Europe, unless titles were showcased on carefully curated sites.

"VOD doesn't play a role because audiences in Europe don't know about Arab films. How would they find a film in the thousands of titles on a VOD platform?" she asked.

Closer to home, local distributors such as Hania Mroue, director of Beirut's arthouse Metropolis Cinema, and Mario Haddad Jr., who heads up Empire International's operations in Dubai, said it was difficult to distribute Arab titles across the Middle East.

"I'm not sure it makes sense to bracket all the films from the region under the banner of Arab cinema, Egyptian cinema is very different from Emirati cinema - and even within the context of Emirati film - there are more commercial movies and arthouse films," commented Haddad. …

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