Peter Scarlet is leaving Abu Dhabi FF immediately and will be replaced by Fest colleague Ali Al Jabri, who has been declared the new festival director. Jabri was previously the director of the festival’s Emirates Film Competition and has worked recently closely with Scarlet. Jabri will now run the festival for Abu Dhabi corporate media hub TwoFour54. He has been with the festival for five years and worked closely with Scarlet. The news comes after industry buzz last week that Scarlet had decided to quit – and other rumors that he had been fired.
Two of the three important Middle Eastern film festivals (Doha/ Tribeca and Abu Dhabi) seem to be taking the now developed festivals into their own hands rather than allowing outsiders to determine their future. This is what I heard from a source at Doha which is also rumored to be separating from Tribeca and Geoff Gilmore’s “leadership”. Dubai has always been in the hands of its native sons and daughters. It is interesting to note that the Dutch have also kept on the inside track for all of these festivals.
What Scarlet will do next has not been announced. Scarlet had left his role as creative director of the Tribeca Film Festival in early 2009, then served for a year as the director general of the Cinematheque Francaise, and then took over the Abu Dhabi fest. Before his seven years at Tribeca, he ran the San Francisco International Film Festival for 20 years.
The Festival is scheduled to take place in the emirate Oct. 11-20 this year. The ADFF launched in 2007 with the goal of helping to create a vibrant film culture throughout the Mideast region. This year, it came under the control of TwoFour54, the government-backed media and creative industries hub in the Emirate, which has attracted media and entertainment companies to make Abu Dhabi a player in the industry and a key place for Hollywood companies looking for a presence or production location in the Persian Gulf region. That new situation perhaps led to Scarlet’s leaving, although the festival didn’t mention any conflicts between the management of TwoFour54 and Scarlet.
“The move to TwoFour54 is a positive for both organizations as they work to showcase regional and international cinema, support the development of emerging Arab cinema, Arabic media and entertainment content to establish Abu Dhabi as an international center of excellence,” TwoFour54 said in announcing the news.
Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54, said: “Today is a very important milestone in the event’s history. Ali has been instrumental in developing the Emirates Film Competition, and we are sure he will bring the same level of passion and enthusiasm to his new role.”
Jabrias the new festival director said he was “proud and excited about the new role,” adding: “This shows the tremendous opportunities that are now opening up in the media industry for United Arab Emirates nationals, and I hope that I can encourage a new generation to want to be a part of such an exciting industry as we position Abu Dhabi as a creative hub for film production in the region.
Wayne Borg, deputy CEO and COO of TwoFour54, during the Cannes Film Festival in May unveiled a 30 percent production tax rebate program, which starts in September and makes the emirate the first location offering such incentives in the region. The hub in Cannes also announced that Digital Domain would open a studio in Abu Dhabi.