It must be challenging to set up a new event in a market saturated with international film festivals and the inaugural MEIFF here in Abu Dhabi seems to have had its fair share of ups and downs.
The venue was stunning, if a little out of the way for a non-driver. It is possible to get numbers to rival a national football match in the sumptuous Emirates Palace hotel and not feel crowded. The sheer scale of the place is more than impressive but the size also posed one or two problems when trying to find your way around. Thankfully, there were well-trained staff on hand at every corner to point you in the right direction but a few well-placed signposts would have been a welcome addition. Maybe they just don't go with the gold décor!
Let's take the promotion of the event - I only found out about the festival one month before and that was from a filmmaker coming to represent one of the documentaries in the official competition. Taking a look at the website, it seemed well set up and fairly easy to navigate but, again, where was the information? No schedule info appeared until about 10 days before the festival was due to start.
The majority of the people I spoke to were unaware of the festival going on, either before, during or after the event. At the closing party, those attending did not even know that it was to mark the end of a weeklong event.
There was an interesting selection of films - none of which were censored - in each of the categories but it was such a shame to see them so poorly attended on the whole. The main point and success seems to have been in the area of film finance; apt for a festival held in one of the capitalist centres of the world.
But the best part? Crashing the closing party. Red carpet and all ;)