The UAE has finally become eligible to submit entries to the foreign language category at the Academy Awards, the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) announced on Sunday.

In a statement following the announcement, the festival's chairman Abdulhamid Juma said: "On behalf of everyone involved in the industry here, we are delighted to now be in a position to submit UAE films for the Oscars, which is another step forward to placing UAE film and talent on the world cinematic map."

The news comes after the country's first film selection committee, was formed and approved earlier this month.

The committee is now expected to put forward the UAE's first entry to the 90th Academy Awards, which will take place on March 4, 2018 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

According to DIFF, the 13 members of the newly formed selection committee include DIFF Chairman, Abdul Hamid Juma and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture chairman Mohammad Khalifa Al Mubarak. 

They will be serving on its board among many other highly regarded industry professionals and cultural figures. 

Filmmakers excited about the news

Emirati filmmaker Abdullah Al Kaabi, who won the Muhr Emirati film Award at DIFF last year for his film "Only Men Go to the Grave," is excited about the festival's announcement. 

Speaking to Zawya News, Al Kaabi says that the news is encouraging to UAE filmmakers who've often struggled in the industry. 

The young filmmaker also reflects on the fact that only a year back Emirati filmmakers had no way of submitting their films to the Oscars, and expresses his happiness at the recent turn of events. 

"Now that DIFF is on-board, and we won the last Muhr Emirati film award, I think things are starting to look quite great and we can finally see a way to reach the Oscars," he says. 

DIFF supporting Arab Cinema

Even though there has yet to be a 2017 Emirati film release, the future of the film industry in the UAE looks promising. 

In 2016, the country saw the release of three Emirati features including, The Worthy, Aeriels and Hajwalah

In his statement, DIFF's chairmen spoke of the great strides being made in the UAE film industry, saying "it has come on leaps and bounds in the last 10 years and the future looks very promising with more compelling films being produced year on year and finding acclaim at festivals around the world and securing theatrical releases." 

Many Arab films that were submitted to the Foreign language category at the Oscars in previous years had been supported and screened by DIFF. 

These include Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu Assad's 2014 Oscar nominated feature, Omar.  

The film had opened DIFF's 10th edition and went on to win the festival's Best Film and Best Director Awards.  

The feature had also received support from DIFF's post-production program, Enjaaz, which aims to support film projects across the Arab world.