The Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth kicks off on Monday with its first in-person programme since the pandemic.
The festival will be featuring more than 95 films from 43 countries. A number of them in the programme will be showing for the first time in the Middle East, with 16 titles marking their premiere in the UAE.
Films will be screened at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre, and Vox Cinemas in Al Zahia Mall and Mirdif City Centre.
An initiative of Funn, the foundation in Sharjah that promotes media arts and creative talent among UAE youth, the festival is the first in the region that is dedicated to a younger audience. It is now in its ninth year and will take place until Saturday.
Here are seven films to see at the SIFF.
Kurdish-Swiss filmmaker Mano Khalil brings humour and satire in a film that explores childhood during a time of dictatorship. Neighbours is set in the 1980s and tells the story of a child aged 6, living in a village along the Turkish-Syrian border. The film, showing for the first time in the UAE, is based on the personal experiences of the director.
Tuesday at Vox Cinemas at City Centre Al Zahia Mall at 10.30am and at JRCC on Friday at 8pm
'The Most Boring Granny in the Whole World'
German filmmaker Damaris Zielke’s The Most Boring Granny in The Whole World will also be marking its UAE premiere at the festival. The film tells the story of Greta, a girl living with her grandmother who collects souvenirs and gazes at images of those who passed away. Fed up with the boredom, Greta pretends she is at her grandmother’s funeral, forcing the family to consider questions they had pondered over before.
Thursday at 10.20am at Vox Cinemas at City Centre Mirdif, and again at 11.30am on the same day at JRCC
This short film by Saudi director Mujtaba Saeed packs a potent dose of gut-wrenching suspense. An unknown virus ravages the world and Adam, a child aged 8 in a refugee shelter, steps outdoors against his mother’s orders only to discover the disastrous effects that have swept the town.
Zawal will be showing along with several other GCC films at Vox Cinemas in Mirdif City Centre at 9.15am on Wednesday
'The Electrical Life of Louis Wain'
Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of British artist Louis Wain in this biopic. The film, which is marking its Middle East premiere at the festival, begins with the wake for Wain’s deceased father, making the artist the sole breadwinner of the family at 21. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain then charts his artistic career and his declining mental health as he attempts playwrighting and composing music before turning to the visual arts, gaining popularity for his anthropomorphised large-eyed cats.
Vox Cinemas in City Centre Al Zahia Mall on Thursday at 9.30pm
'The Seine’s Tears'
In only nine minutes, the animation The Seine’s Tears gives a new dimension to the mockumentary by highlighting the non-violent rally of Algerian workers on the streets of Paris that took place on October 17, 1961. The rally was in protest against the mandatory curfew imposed by the police prefecture.
The Seine’s Tears will be showing along with other short student films on Tuesday at Vox Cinemas at Mirdif City Centre at 10.50am, then again at JRCC at 11.35am
'A Second Life'
A Second Life by Tunisian director Anis Lassoued is centred on a boy aged 12 who goes by the name Gadeha, or "flame" in Arabic.
The moniker, which is also the film’s Arabic title, was given to him by his father, who left for Italy years ago, embarking on a perilous sea voyage that many take while illegally immigrating to Europe. That was the last the young Gadeha had heard from his father. The boy spends most of his time seaside with his friends, pilfering phones and catcalling passers-by until he gets involved in a car accident that gives him the opportunity for a new life.
Wednesday at 6.30pm at JRCC, and Thursday at 9.15am at Vox Cinemas at City Centre Al Zahia Mall
Italian director Claudio Casale’s Shero tells the story of Shabnam, the victim of a brutal acid attack when she was still a teenager. She is now a shero — or woman hero — an Indian women's rights fighter raising her child by teaching her the importance of beauty and feminine power outside traditional constraints.
Shero will be screening alongside other short documentary films on Tuesday at Vox Cinemas in City Centre Al Zahia Mall at 10.40am. It will be shown again on Thursday at Vox Cinema in City Centre Mirdif at 9.15am