Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2013: TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey talks documentaries & Gulf film

                               Cameron Bailey, co director of the Toronto Film Festival, at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Oct. 2013 for a story by Ann Marie McQueen. 
CREDIT: Ann Marie McQueen / The National
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Cameron Bailey, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival, is in Abu Dhabi to head up the five-member jury for the documentary competition. In addition to talking  about the nuts and bolts of his job here during an interview conducted at Emirates Palace, I asked for his impressions about the regional film industry.

Do you have people coming up to you and trying to get their films in TIFF? That happens from time to time. I'm always looking but it's unlikely I am going to see anything that's ready right now that will be appropriate for next year's festival, because we are programming mostly new films. But you know I like to meet filmmakers, so it's actually a good thing when people do approach. I am always curious about what's going on, especially when you come to a place where the film industry is still developing and developing so quickly, like the Gulf. I think if I came every year there would be a whole crop of new filmmakers, it feels like that.

From this region what do you see happening, from where you're standing? What I like is that there's a structure and I think most powerfully right now there is a financing structure for films from this region, and the various funds that are available and the way they're plugged into the rest of the world I think that really helps. Assuming that there are filmmakers with enough talent skill and ambition they can make use of that financing to get their films made. After that of course the challenge is getting their film out into the world and it's the same for every filmmaker from every corner of the planet. You know making the films is hard enough but getting them seen is even harder. That's where film festivals come in, that's where sales agents and distributors are really crucial and I think that's maybe the next stage that should be happening here. I am not that familiar with what the details are but I don't see a lot of sales agents based in this region.

Do you have any documentary no-nos? There are things that leap immediately to mind, but the problem is, every no-no can be done brilliantly by the right filmmaker. 'Never do this', but then there's an example where someone pulls it off. The only thing I think is a persistent no-no in documentaries is, don't tell the audience what to think or how to feel, that's almost never successful. It's better if you show and let the viewer form their own opinion.

Are there any other films you are excited about seeing? I am pretty focused on the jury selection, I may get a chance to see one or two other things. I just ran into an Egyptian actor last night, Khaled Abol Naga, who was in Toronto with a film called Microphone a couple of years ago. He's got a new film here I think it's called Villa 69, it's premiering here. I like him, I like his work a lot, and he told me he plays an old man in the film, so I hope I get to see that.