March 23, 2009–Abu Dhabi execs have hired former Tribeca artistic director Peter Scarlet as executive director of the emirate's Middle East Film Festival. The two sides have been in discussions ever since Scarlet ankled his Tribeca post. The third edition of the Middle East Film Festival unspools Oct. 8-17.
Former Slamdance founder Jon Fitzgerald, who helped launch the Abu Dhabi fest in 2007, has not had his two year contract renewed by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, which backs the festival. Former exec director Nashwa al-Ruwaini will now take on an advisory role and join the fest's board.
Al-Ruwaini and chairman Mohammed Khalaf al-Mazrouei will continue to oversee the overall strategic direction of the Abu Dhabi fest.
Scarlet has been a supporter of Middle Eastern cinema. During his tenure at Tribeca, a number of pictures from the region were selected for the Gotham event.
The Middle East Film Festival has been a platform for Abu Dhabi's ambitions to become a global film player ever since it was unveiled at the 2007 Festival de Cannes.
The Abu Dhabi fest continues to be one of the richest in the world. Last year's edition handed out more than $1 million in prize money. Scarlet's appointment continues the growing Middle East connection with American fests.
Tribeca inked a deal last year to launch a fest in the Gulf state of Qatar in November. Part of the mandate for former Sundance chief Geoff Gilmore, who joined the Gotham festival in a top exec post this February, will be to oversee the Qatar festival's development.