Union of Islamic Filmmakers – reality or fantasy?

On November 23, 2011, the European Commission announced a new program called “Creative Europe”.

The project would unite, and give opportunity to thousands of people working in cinema, TV, culture, music, performing arts, heritage and related areas to benefit from the EU support.

With a proposed budget of some 1,8 billion Euros (approximately $2,3 billion) for the period 2014-2020, it would be a much-needed boost for the cultural and creative industries, which are a major source of jobs and growth in Europe.

From the 1,8 billion Euros, some 900 million Euros (approximately $1,1 billion) would be allocated to supporting the cinema sector.

On the other hand, countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf have quite a big number of hungry filmmakers, that just cannot seem to secure enough funding for their film projects.

A similar structure or a program that would unite filmmakers from these countries (as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Oman, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt Indonesia Lebanon, Qatar, Bahrain, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Palestine) has not yet been proposed or created.


Back in 2010, Abu Dhabi Film Festival established “Sanad” (support) a funding program to provide support for Arab feature and documentary filmmakers.

Filmmakers also appreciate Sanad for the fact that grants are awarded without conditions. This is not the case with certain European funds, for instance, which insist their awards be paid to European technicians.

Some filmmakers believe having more fund programs like Sanad would allow them to stop relying on European and foreign grants, since most of them have obligations, guidelines that need to be fulfilled.

Since Sanad was created, the Dubai International Film Festival has launched Enjaaz (“completion”), which disburses up to $100,000 in post-production support per feature-length Arab film and documentary.

The Doha-Tribeca Film Festival has unveiled its MENA Grants, supporting Middle East and North Africa feature-length narrative, documentary and experimental filmmakers in development, production, post-production as well as prints and advertising.

Independent filmmakers are always hungry for funding, so when an International Festival agrees to fund the film, they’re most likely to screen them at the next upcoming event.

Yet for the past several months the Sanad fund has been in a state of suspension, with its futur being put in doubt. This opens up space for more possible options regarding film funding for not only Arab filmmakers, but filmmakers from other Muslim countries as well.


Coming back to the idea of establishing a joint union of filmmakers of Middle East and Persian Gulf countries – one of the options here would be taking the whole idea one level up. In other words, getting under government’s wing.

This would mean, relying on government’s funding for particular film projects. On one side, such option can secure a substantial amount of money for a film project, on the other side – there is huge dependency, pressure, and control over the creative approach.

Another option, as it can be assumed, could mean establishing an independent union or even a hub, that would see filmmakers from each of the mentioned countries collaborate on various film projects.

Taking into consideration various economic, political and cultural factors, the films could of course be limited to educational, or documentary ones.

The established union could establish several committees, that would handle various issues regarding a particular film project. The same Union could, if having sufficient funds, establish its own film festivals, to attract more independent filmmakers.

And, of course, the members of the Union would have special benefits as far as film making within the framework of the Union is concerned.

Filmmakers from such countries as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Sudan could benefit from working within the Union, and promote not just their movies, but their own countries as well.

In case with other countries, the situation varies, as some countries would be considered “unstable” by certain standards, and others are simply not interested in filmmaking as a whole. Nonetheless, for separate, independent Islamic filmmakers, such Union could definitely help with some of their films.

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