Dr Amina Al Rustamani, project director, Dubai Studio City, and a key management team-member of Dubai International Film Festival, says Diff facilitates the emergence of Dubai as a destination for filmmakers from around the world. Rajeev Nair met her
There are three inspirational photographs on the walls of Dr Amina Al Rustamani’s office at Dubai Media City. Coincidentally, all three could apply to her current role as a key management team-member of Dubai International Film Festival (Diff).
The first reads: “The most important lesson is learn which bridges in life to use and which ones to break off.”
In Diff parlance, Dr Amina must use films as a bridge to bring together different cultures.
The second reads: “The great thing about inspiration is in leaving footprints for others to follow.”
Cut to Diff: Dubai’s film festival has a whole different dimension in its vision. Unlike being a mere celebration of cinema, it inspires a meeting of minds through films.
The third caption reads: “What happens, happens for a reason.”
Hasn’t Diff been reason enough for the emergence of a new breed of young Emarati filmmakers, whose works are being showcased at Diff 2005?
Dr Amina is an acknowledged authority in wireless technologies. She received her BS, MS and DSc degrees in electrical engineering from the George Washington University, Washington DC, and had joined the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone as project engineer for Samacom, the satellite communication services provider of the Dubai Holding Group; and was later DMC’s director of broadcasting.
She played a major role in designing and implementing the satellite TV broadcasting and video encoding facilities for broadcasters in Dubai Media City and elsewhere in the region.
Currently involved in developing Dubai Studio City as a regional hub for filmmaking, she has played a strategic role in shaping Diff 2005, especially in highlighting the works of talented Emarati filmmakers.
Excerpts from an interview:
You are associating with Diff hands-on for the first time. What are your expectations from the event?
I expect different things of different dimensions. First of all, I expect people to enjoy watching the films. I guess we have already accomplished what we have been preaching through our festival-objective of Building Cultures, Meeting Minds. With the film festival, people get to study different cultures and understand the backgrounds and the issues they face, which will ultimately bring them closer. In terms of business, I expect Diff to host filmmakers who can see first hand what Dubai has to offer and establish a better relationship to explore future opportunities.
What is your evaluation of Diff 2004?
It was a huge success. There have been a number of enquiries from Europe, the Middle East, America and Asia. People have started talking about Diff, and the film industry is looking at Dubai in a different light. They seem to realise that if we have a film festival, naturally we would also be promoting Dubai as a location for shooting and production.
Is it possible to outline your specific involvement in strategising for Diff 2005?
I have been very much involved in encouraging local talent in the Diff roster. We have 38 Arab films and five are by UAE film-makers. It makes me feel proud that these talented youngsters can start a film career right here. All they need is a big push and guidance. And this year, we are also finalising a panel discussion on Syrian filmmaker Moustapha Akkad (who died in the recent bomb blast in Jordan).
From your interaction with the world film community, what do you think is their impression of Diff?
Honestly, I have been receiving very positive feedback. In fact, it surprised me that people know of it and talk about it. That is how you measure the success of a film festival.
According to you, what is the defining character of Diff?
In the Arab map, Diff would fit as being really a home for new young talent. On a world level, what we always talk about as a strategy for ‘Building Cultures, Meeting Minds’ makes Diff hugely different from other similar events. That aspect also reflects on what and how Dubai is. Diff focuses on bringing films and content that appeal to all communities in Dubai.
Do you think, Diff also puts a spotlight on Dubai as a tourist destination?
Yes, definitely. There are a lot of linkages between tourism and filmmaking, and we already have a remarkable synergy between Diff, Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City — all of which opens doors for filmmakers to Dubai.
As project director of Dubai Studio City, do you see any tangible achievements in filmmaking in Dubai?
Since we launched Dubai Studio City, we have a got a number of enquiries for shooing in Dubai. We already have a Location Approvals Services under DSC, which is an important service for all filmmakers and television production companies. It is a single-window service, wherein we liaise with other government entities — the Dubai Municipality, Dubai Police and Ministry of Information — to facilitate filmmaking here. Since July, we have approved 70 projects — including commercials, television productions and films. International production companies cannot afford to waste time; they need to get their approvals as fast as possible.
That is what I expect out of Diff too — to increase the number of film productions here. Simultaneously, we are also putting in the necessary infrastructure in place, which is not a simple task.
What is Dubai’s advantage as a film destination?
The locations, obviously. Secondly, we are putting in place the infrastructure; we are fast and efficient with our services and people are impressed with the way we conduct business and the high levels of service we provide. I have been visiting the world’s major film production centres — India, USA, Canada. We want to understand their strengths and deliver the goodness of all of these centres, here in Dubai.