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Abu Dhabi to stop hosting international film festival

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Organizers of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival said Thursday they are shutting down the annual international event after eight years, even as the oil-rich emirate attracts greater attention from Hollywood studios.

In announcing the move, the Media Zone Authority-Abu Dhabi said it wants to put greater focus on supporting local and Arab talent and attracting filmmakers to the region. A fund associated with the festival that is designed to assist Arab filmmakers will continue.

“Over the last few years we have built a strong foundation for a self-sustaining film and television industry. It is now the right time to deepen our commitment and further develop programs to take the local industry to the next level,” the authority’s CEO, Noura al-Kaabi, said in a statement.

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the seven-state United Arab Emirates federation, which includes the commercial hub of Dubai. It has invested heavily to establish itself as a filmmaking and media production center, and offers studios a 30 percent rebate on production costs to entice them to film in the sheikhdom.

The strategy has had some success.

Scenes from the latest installment of Universal’s “Fast & Furious” franchise, “Furious 7,” were filmed in Abu Dhabi, including a scene where lead Vin Diesel appears to jump a glass-shattering sports car between the city’s iconic Etihad Towers.

The emirate’s desert landscape also was the stand-in for another world far, far away, in the forthcoming “Star Wars: Episode VII.” The Disney film is directed by J.J. Abrams and is due out in December.

Other productions that have shot in Abu Dhabi include the American soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Bollywood feature “Bang Bang.”

Abu Dhabi has held a film festival every year since 2007. Dubai, which played a starring role in the 2011 blockbuster “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” launched its own three years earlier and continues to host the annual festival.

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