But when the lineup was announced, opposition filmmakers were horrified that three of the works had been made through the Syrian government's film association by directors who had signed the pro-Assad statement. The other films were made with private, mostly European funds.
"They made their films with money from a state that is killing its people," said AL-Roumi, whose film "Round Trip" is being shown in Dubai. "It was like they were inviting Bashar Assad to the festival."
So he and others complained to festival organizers, who canceled the films.
A statement on the festival's website said the films would not be shown "in light of the tragic ongoing situation that the people of Syria face every day and in accordance with the politics of the United Arab Emirates in advocating for the Syrian people and their ambitions."
Veteran Syrian filmmaker Abdellatif Abdelhamid said he was informed that his film "The Lover" had been pulled right after receiving his official invitation and airline ticket.
A week earlier, the same film had been pulled from the Cairo International Film Festival after similar complaints.
"Their talk makes me laugh: 'They work in this association and they made their films there,'" he said of the opposition. "Who are we supposed to get support from, Burkina Faso?"
Said, too, was surprised that his film "My Last Friend" was pulled, a move he called "political exclusion."
He said he couldn't believe he was being punished for a statement he signed a year and a half earlier when so much had changed in Syria since then.
"The situation is far beyond that now," he said. "Now we have a civil war and they want to say this is all about some statement? It's a stupid excuse."
All agree that the dispute has nothing to do with the films themselves. None were overtly political, and none of the opposition filmmakers had even seen them. Instead, the fight is deeply personal.
AL-Meyar said he had worked closely with Said before the uprising but now couldn't bear to have their films screened at the same festival.
"The films will live on and people will see them and say that my film is crap and his film is good," AL-Roumi said. "But for human reasons, I can only deal with these people as monsters and I have to be very cautious."
Joubin, the Davidson scholar, criticized the cancellations, saying that all films have to be funding by someone and that even those produced by the Syrian government provide insights into society.
"If every time a film is produced by the Syrian government it gets pulled, there will be a lot of very beautiful films that people are not going to see," she said.
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