More than 80 international films for young people will be screened online next week as part of the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth.
Now in its eighth iteration, the annual festival will be held completely online for the first time since its establishment in 2013. It will take place from Sunday until October 15, with a selection of films that cater to age groups from under 7 to those in their university years.
The selection includes animations, documentaries and feature films, as well as shorter works. Foreign-language films will all be screened with subtitles in Arabic and English.
“As the first truly international film festival for children and youth in the region, Siff aims to present the best, most innovative films from across the globe for the age group,” Sheikha Jawaher Abdullah Al Qasimi, the festival’s director, said.
“We seek out films that not only entertain our audience but also challenge them to widen their perspective. But more importantly, we look to showcase films that inspire and ignite sparks of creativity in the minds and hearts of young people.
Here is our pick of eight must-watch films from this year’s Siff:
‘School by the Sea’ (2021)
A documentary by Norwegian filmmaker Solveig Melkeraaen, School by the Sea tells the story of Thorvin and Tilde, the only second grade students in a small seaside school that is soon forced to shut down. As the two experience emotions from sadness and loss to excitement and resilience, the film becomes a polychrome portrayal of children adapting to change.
Up-and-coming Saudi filmmaker Mohammed Atabani takes on cyberbullying in Block. The 28-minute film tells the story of a bubbly young girl named Revan, who enjoys spending time on Instagram. A series of fateful swipes later, she finds herself the target of cyberbullies and becomes embroiled in a situation that could land her in jail. Block will have its UAE premiere when shown at the festival next week. The film won the the Golden Palm at the Saudi Film Festival in 2020.
A gripping sci-fi film by Kazakh director Kuka, Shoqan delves into a classroom in the future, where students are taught history using virtual reality. While studying the Holodomor famine, one of the students, Shoqan, notices how real everything around him looks.
‘Big Little Man’ (2019)
Big Little Man by Taiwanese filmmaker Hsuan Chao tells the story of a young boy whose divorced parents have started new families. He leaves his father’s house in Taipei, embarking on a road trip to Hualien, where his mother lives, only to discover there is no home for him there, either. Where will his journey finally lead to?
Big Little Man had its world premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in 2019.
‘Ode to Misfits’ (2020)
South Korean filmmaker Hyunjin Cho’s Ode to Misfits tells the story of Noru, a person with chromesthesia who gets admitted to a mental hospital. The musical, told from the perspective of Noru’s unique condition where she perceives sound as colour, follows her encounters with other patients at the hospital, including those who suffer from extreme anxiety and ADHD. The film is Cho’s statement on self-acceptance and friendship.
‘The Snail and the Whale’ (2019)
A tiny snail longs to see the world and catches a ride with a genial humpback whale. A fun, warmhearted animation about the curiousness of the world, the British film by Max Lang and Daniel Snaddon is based on the popular 2003 children’s book by Julia Donaldson.
‘Childhood Trauma’ (2020)
In three minutes, Emirati filmmaker Safa Azarayesh connects the unfortunate dots of childhood trauma and adulthood in her film Childhood Trauma.
‘I Was Still There When You Left Me’ (2019)
A seven-year-old girl, Lila, goes about her day normally as she waits for her parents to come home. She cooks and whiles her time away in the family apartment before soon waking up to a person carrying her down the building stairs. She realises there’s been a fire and blames herself for leaving the stove on. The 23-minute Belgian film by Marie Mc Court is a wake-up call to buildings not meeting safety standards in European countries.