Emirati actress Amal Mohamed has won Best Asian Actress at the Septimius Awards for film, in the Netherlands, for her role in the Emirati film 218: Behind the Wall of Silence.
The movie is the first production by Sharjah Media City or Shams and is the result of a two-year initiative that involved more than 2,000 aspiring creatives from around the UAE.
The film, which deals with issues of domestic violence, nostalgia and revenge, tells the story of three young women from different backgrounds, whose fates become intertwined because of a mysterious event in apartment 218.
It is directed by The Tainted Veil filmmaker Nahla Al Fahad and stars, alongside Mohamed, several renowned Emirati actors including Habib Ghuloom, Merei El Halyan, Mansoor Alfeeli, Abdulla Bin Haider and Haifa Al Ali.
The film was nominated in three categories at the Septimius Awards, namely Best Director, Best Actress and Best Asian Film. The festival, held on Monday and Tuesday in Amsterdam, is aimed at encouraging independent film talents and supporting visionary films.
“Shams is proud to produce works of art that leave an unmistakeable mark on the Emirati creative scene,” Shams chairman Khalid Omar Al Midfa said. “The film 218 is our first foray into this field, and for Emirati actress Amal Mohamed to win Best Asian Actress at the prestigious Septimius Film Awards truly underlines the meticulous quality of the production, as well as its ability to deliver an important social message. This, in turn, demonstrates our ability to compete and produce works that can make an impact in the film industry.”
Al Midfa congratulated Mohamed on her achievement and said this was “only the beginning” for Shams.
“We will be working on more outstanding productions that cement the UAE’s leadership in artistic and creative industries — sectors we aim to support both in the UAE and around the region, all the while training and empowering a new generation of filmmakers through our various initiatives.”
How ‘218’ was made
218 was the first film to be produced under the Shams initiative UAE Entertainment Experience, and is touted as being the “first crowdsourced film in the Arab world.”
The campaign began in 2019 by calling on fresh university graduates from around the UAE to enrol in a free filmmaking training programme.
"We had a team in every major city that actually met those interested in participating in the initiative," Shihab Alhammadi, director of Shams, previously told The National.
In its early stages, the programme had more than 2,000 participants taking part in the training courses, that were offered online and in person. The training focused on developing various skills in filmmaking, from scriptwriting to directing and post-production to scoring.
Out of these participants, more than 32 teams advanced to work on the final film. "Those teams consisted of five to 10 members," he said. "We did a lot of evaluations during that time and grouped people based on their interests as well as where they were based."
A committee consisting of film professionals oversaw the training programme and offered mentorship to its participants.
“We have experts in directing, acting, scriptwriting and music production to name a few,” Alhammadi said. “They were all involved in the team as well as those who were involved in managing the programme.”
The committee included Al Fahad, Ghuloom, scriptwriter Mohammed Hasan Ahmed and Bin Haider.
“The ultimate goal from the project was to train and empower national talents capable of advancing artistic and cinematic production, creating films that truly represent Emirati society, and drawing attention to important social issues,” Alhammadi said. “We aim to lay the foundations for an integrated cinema and arts sector that not only draws inspiration from the public, but also engages the audience in the production process.”