First look at 2012 film festival season

Here's what you need to know before next month's Abu Dhabi Film Festival kick-starts a hectic few months of screenings.

Tom Cruise hit the red carpet at last year's Dubai International Film Festival to promote Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

If ever there was something to highlight just how quickly a year zips by, it's the region's film festival season. For many of us, the screams of "Tom, TOM, TOOOOOOM!" are still ringing in our ears from the Mission: Impossible-fuelled mayhem that was the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).

But the Abu Dhabi Film Festival is already hurtling towards us, kick-starting a hectic few months of red carpets, flash photography and waiting in the standby tickets queue because you forgot to get them when they were first on sale.

We're still waiting to hear which films will be showing (last year, DIFF organisers only gave us the list a few days before it started), but there have already been some changes at the festival headquarters that could stir things up a little.

Abu Dhabi Film Festival (October 11-20)

The festival, which opens the curtain on the season, last year brought us the world premiere of the Emirati feature Sea Shadow, along with A Separation, The Ides of March, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Contagion, A Dangerous Method and a whole batch of other cinematic goodness, including a decent section that had been aided by the festival's own SANAD fund.

This year, the Emirati Ali Al Jabri, who used to head up the festival's Emirates Film Competition, is directing the festival, replacing Peter Scarlet, who had overseen the event since 2010.

There are also rumours that the festival might not return to the creek-side Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel, where it was mostly stationed last year, and will instead be held at a more central location.

While A-list guests are always a last-minute affair, we do know that the legendary Isabella Rossellini is set to appear as the president of the jury for the narrative competition.

Also, the US fantasy drama Beasts of the Southern Wild might be showing, or so claims the film's website,

Doha Tribeca Film Festival (November 17-24)

Abu Dhabi's Scarlet isn't the region's only high-profile festival departure. Amanda Palmer, who headed up the Doha Film Institute and its annual Tribeca festival, which this year celebrates its fourth edition, recently left her position to start her own regional talent agency.

The Institute named Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, the chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, as the vice chair of the festival. Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist will open the festival. It was funded by the Doha Film Institute, and opened the Venice International Film Festival last week.

This year, thankfully, there's a longer break between the Abu Dhabi and Doha festivals. Visit for more details.

Dubai International Film Festival (December 9-16)

Something really special is going to have to happen to top last year's event, during which Tom Cruise spent approximately five years on the red carpet, Werner Herzog gave one of the most entertaining talks in the festival's history and Kermit the Frog offered a big "shukran" (sadly pre-recorded) to Dubai.

While we're some way from seeing the schedule, the big news is that the festival will be preceded by the two-day Cinematic Innovation Summit, during which more than 200 representatives will discuss advancements in technology in the world of film and gaming. Another change is that the festival's long-term PR agency, Asda'a, has been replaced with Edelman. Fingers crossed we might get the line-up a bit earlier this year. Visit

Gulf Film Festival

It probably won't take place until April next year, but if the last edition of this festival for the region's filmmakers is anything to go by, the coming year should feature more examples of the growing pool of talent in the Arabian Gulf and wider region. Visit