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L.A., Cannes . . . and Dubai

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Doug Krizner: Dubai has been attracting worldwide attention.
It’s already a regional financial center, wielding massive oil wealth. This week, the Dubai sovereign fund bought a big stake in Sony.

And beyond business, Dubai is fast becoming a tourist destination. And now it’s home to one of the fastest growing film festivals. A week from tomorrow, it’s opening night for the Dubai Film Festival.

Let’s bring in Mike Speier, executive editor for Variety here in L.A. Mike, Dubai’s seems to be becoming a hot spot for entertainment business.

Mike Speier: This is a big week for news coming out of Dubai, especially because of the film festival. Because they’re getting Hollywood talent, they’re getting Hollywood films to come to a region and to then come to a new festival that just a year or two years ago, we didn’t really care or cover.

Krizner: Obviously, they’ve got the money. Do they have the cache to compete with some of the other big festivals at this point?

Speier: You said it right — they have the money, and when you have the money, the cache comes right away. They might not have the history, but they certainly have the millions of dollars and the power that it takes to invite someone like George Clooney for Michael Clayton, that’s a film that’s been chosen to be in the festival. So they’re getting Hollywood players to come, and I think it’s really because once you treat them with the respect and dignity that money can afford, I think they’ll show up. And that’s what they’re trying to do. And once they get this going, a few years later on, they’re going to have that cache — especially after the film festival.

Krizner: So 141 films, this is only the fourth year. Are you surprised by how much they’ve been able to accomplish in just four years’ time?

Speier: It’s more, not the amount of films, but the type of festival it is. They certainly have their sidebars in order. They have a whole section of Chinese film. They have obviously what they consider a wonderful section on Arab cinema, which, you know, no festival really takes care of Arab cinema. They might have Arab entries, but they have a whole collection, obviously, for obvious reasons, because of their region, of Arab cinema. And who knows what kind of talent comes out of that.

Krizner: So what gets done, what kind of business is transacted at a festival like this?

Speier: Well usually, there’s two types of festivals. There are ones that are just film festivals, that just show films and invite people. There’s a million of those. And then there are markets that join festivals, something like Cannes, where they have a festival, get all the famous people, and then there’s business to be conducted on the ground or in the afternoon. And at Dubai, they do have a market. So it is not just people coming and having a good time and going to parties — although that’s part of it. During the day, there are movies to be bought and sold for different regions, and you can pony up for some of these entries for your territory — whether it’s Asia or America.

Krizner: Mike Speier is executive editor at Variety here in L.A. Mike, always a pleasure, thank so much.

Speier: My pleasure.

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