For Carla Corsino, the annual Middle East Film and Comic Con (MEFCC) in Dubai is an annual pilgrimage. It started in 2012, when her son Curtis was born. This year, as a family, they were dressed as characters from the video game Assassins Creed. Carla, an HR official with an oil and gas company, was Connor, a female aversion of the famous male character of the game, and her husband was a Knight’s Templar. “Every year we dress up differently, and for all the three days,” says Carla, who hails from the Philippines.
The MEFCC has morphed into the most awaited event on the cultural calendar of Dubai with talent coming in from across the globe. Comic Cons — especially the big ones like San Diego, New York and London have developed huge fan following, with tickets being sold out months in advance. This year, the MEFCC boasted of stars such as Ezra Miller (Flash, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them); Kristian Nairn (Hodor from Game Of Thrones); and the entire caste of Netflix’s new show Lost In Space including Toby Stephens and Molly Parker. Other panelists included the voice of Spider Man — Robbie Daymond and Jason Frank (Power Rangers).
In its seventh edition, the Dubai Comic Con signals a shift in the way studios and entertainment companies view the Middle East. Initially, South East Asia was the preferred market for super hero and action franchise movies. “It’s changing. The potential of the Middle East has not been fully realised, and now we see this emerging demographic which is so expressive. Now the whole entertainment industry is sitting up and taking notice,” says Suzy Pallet, group director, Informa, Middle East, the organiser of the event. This is Informa’s first time as organisers.
Mark Gsellman, General Manager, Warner Brothers World, Abu Dhabi, concurs. This was also the first time that Warner Brothers was exhibiting at the MEFCC. Their debut coincides with the opening of their theme park in Abu Dhabi. “We go online this year with the theme park, the sea world comes up in 2022. The vibe here is reminiscent of Orlando in the early days of Disney and Universal. And here at the Comic Con, we are providing an immersive experience, which is what comic cons should be,” says Gsellman.
While major players such as Marvel, Netflix, Warner Bros, and DC made their presence felt with giant stalls and activities, the MEFCC also showcased local talent. Mia Phoenix, an illustrator and artist from Kuwait, was doing brisk business. She paints postcards and small posters by hand and then digitally enhances them. Printed copies were available for buyers. “This is my fifth time here. The first four times I came as a visitor, this time I am an exhibitor,” says the artist, who hopes this outing will create more business for her back home.
The MEFCC 2018 is definitely bigger and bolder, with about 65,000 people attending the three-day event, but Carla misses the earlier editions. “I remember when Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Aquaman) was here. He patiently signed two shirts for me, and even the one I was wearing. Earlier it was about the fans, now it’s more about the stars,” says Carla.