Thursday, December 8, 2011

DIFF's first panel discussion on "An Arab spring for the Film Twitter-verse?" with members Colin Brown, Mark Adams, Hossein Jalali and Sultan Batawi at Dubai International Film Festival 2011 (names right to left)

Dubai International Film Festival commenced on the 7th December 2011 at Madinat Jumeirah. The film festival opened with an intriguing discussion and analysis of social media in the Arab region. The panel consisted of Sultan Batawi, head of social media at Al Arabiya news; Hossein Jalali, head of online at Al Aan TV; Mark Adams, journalist and Colin Brown, contributing editor at CNBC.

The discussion titled, “An Arab Spring for the Film Twitter-verse?” provided interesting views and statistics on the use of social media networks in the Middle East and it’s increase in users with light of the Arab spring.

Hossein Jalali revealed that the highest number of  Twitter-users are from the Arab world and that ‘Arabic’ is the fastest growing language on twitter. He expressed his reasons to being a pro online media fanatic, talking about citizen journalists and the non-neutral nature of traditional media, driving people closer to the internet and accessing more personal online forums for an authentic side of the story. Jalali also suggested that since social media is at its peak, shutting Twitter and Facebook would be taking a step back. 

Sultan Batawi, head of social media at Al Arabiya news also supported the same viewpoint as he commented, “News channel is like a star, you are looking at it, but can’t reach it.”

Whilst journalist and film critic, Mark Adams explained the relationship of cinema, social media and the strength of word of mouth as well as how Twitter and Facebook back up the viral value of media content.

“Twitter has changed the playing field,” said Adams, as we live in an age where movie critics tweet about movies promptly even at premiers, sharing their experiences and opinions to the rest of the world creating immediacy and intimacy.

Colin Brown moderated the entire panel discussion, adding his expert comments as well. He concluded the dialogue by quoting ten rules of blogging where a few included, “Write as if your mum also reads it”, “If you are vindictive in blogging, you will be attacked yourself” and “blogging is not about opinions, it’s showing a view of the world.”

A learning experience for students and film enthusiasts alike, the Dubai International Film Festival 2011 set the stage for more knowledge, networking and glamour for the coming days.

One on one with Colin Brown

Colin Brown moderating the panel discussion
Photographs by Christine Cherian

Colin Brown, the judge for DIFF’s Young Journalist Award has been a part of Dubai International Film Festival since its inception. Currently working as the contributing editor of CNBC Business, he hosted the panel discussion adding his humorous and quirky inputs.

During the Arab uprising did social media draw attention to any particular drawback as a popular medium of communication?

CB: The social media aspect was overplayed by the media. The media exaggerated as it made a great story. It is a great source to communicate and engage people to get the word around. For me the revolution would have happened anyway. It’s ironic, as at the same point in Sudan it was used for the exact opposite reason. The danger is really whenever you shut it down, that’s when it becomes more interesting for people.

Are the trained journalists in any sort of threat from social media? Are citizen journalists moving ahead of the league?

CB: If you asked this question a year ago they would have said absolutely yes. The trained ones were discouraging. I don’t think that’s true anymore and the journalists are getting their best stories from citizen journalists. There is not enough money to go around and talk to everyone. Journalists are very good at taking what’s out there and moulding a story, that’s where social media helps.

Report by Heena Makhijani