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The UAE qualifies to submit feature films to the Oscars

President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Cheryl Boone Isaacs and DIFF Chairman Abdulhamid Juma (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for DIFF).

The Dubai International Film Festival has announced that the United Arab Emirates will now be able to submit an entry to The Academy’s foreign language film competition for the 90th Academy Awards following the selection committee being approved this month.

The UAE is now eligible to submit a feature-length film for consideration in this category, the ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), will honour the best films of 2017 and will take place on March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

The Nazareth-based filmmaker’s latest feature, Omar was named on the final list of five at yesterday’s Academy Awards nominations announcement in Los Angeles, following on from Paradise Now, which earned Abu Assad a nod in 2006.

Shot in both Israel and the West Bank, Omar follows the story of a young Palestinian baker – played with passion by rising star Adam Bakri – who must deal with issues of love, trust and betrayal while fighting Israeli occupation. It opened the Dubai International Film Festival in December, going on to win its biggest honour, the Best Film in the Muhr Arab feature competition, along with Best Director for Abu-Assad.

Palestine yesterday received its second Oscars nomination in the foreign language category, once again for its most high-profile director Hany Abu-Assad.

The Nazareth-based filmmaker’s latest feature, Omar was named on the final list of five at yesterday’s Academy Awards nominations announcement in Los Angeles, following on from Paradise Now, which earned Abu Assad a nod in 2006.

Shot in both Israel and the West Bank, Omar follows the story of a young Palestinian baker – played with passion by rising star Adam Bakri – who must deal with issues of love, trust and betrayal while fighting Israeli occupation. It opened the Dubai International Film Festival in December, going on to win its biggest honour, the Best Film in the Muhr Arab feature competition, along with Best Director for Abu-Assad.

The UAE selection committee is made up of highly regarded filmmakers, film industry professionals and cultural figures either UAE nationals or residing in the UAE selected for their knowledge of UAE cinema, international cinema and filmmaking skills.

With this, Abdulhamid Juma, Chairman of the Dubai International Film Festival is joined by HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture, film critic and curator Antonia Carver, director and producer Abdullah Hasan Ahmed, poet and script writer Ahmed Salmeen, Head of Narrative Film & Television at ImageNation Ben Ross, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cinema Akil Butheina Hamed Kazim, Managing Partner of Middle Eastern distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment Gianluca Chakra, artist and culture writer Hind Mezaina, MBC television executive and Festival director of ANA cinema Lina Matta, filmmaker Mohammed Al-Otaiba, film critic Mohammed Rouda and composer Taha Al Ajami.

Abdulhamid Juma, DIFF Chairman commented: “On behalf of everyone involved in the industry here, we are delighted to now be in a position to submit UAE films for the Oscars, which is another step forward to placing UAE film and talent on the world cinematic map. Its encouragement for all UAE filmmakers that our stories can go a long way in today’s world. The UAE film industry has come on leaps and bounds in the last 10 years and the future looks very promising with more compelling films being produced year on year and finding acclaim at festivals around the world and securing theatrical releases.”

As per the Academy, a foreign language film is defined as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the United States, with a predominantly non-English dialogue track. In order to be eligible, the film must first be released within its home country before 1 October and be publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor.

Along with other technical specifics, the Academy requires that all submitting countries certify that creative control of the motion picture was largely in the hands of its citizens or residents of that country.

This is a positive step towards increasing the chances of a Middle East presence at the Oscars. In 2014, Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad received his second Oscar nomination for Omar which opened DIFF’s 10th edition, the film also received support from DIFF’s post-production programme Enjaaz.  The film won the Best Film in the Muhr Arab Feature Competition along with Best Director for Abu-Assad. Palestine yesterday received its second Oscars nomination in the foreign language category, once again for its most high-profile director Hany Abu-Assad.