Ones to watch: unmissable movies at Sharjah Film Platform

The eight-day festival features more than fifty movies in addition to workshops and talks

The Sharjah Film Platform will accept submissions until Saturday, April 26. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation
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The Sharjah Film Platform (SFP) kicks off , bringing more than 50 movies from around the world to the emirate. The screenings are taking place at Mirage City Cinema and Al Hamra Cinema, one of Sharjah's oldest movie theatres, until Saturday, December 21. The festival presents short and feature-length films, including documentaries and experimental works, all of which were selected through an open call.

Three short films which were awarded the foundation's Short Film Production Grant premiered on opening night. Children of the Lake, directed by Filipino filmmaker Emerson Reyes, is first of the three. While playing cops and robbers near the lake, Lele and Belle encounter a lone soldier, who is being hunted down for conspiring to take over their land. The children's innocent pastime turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

From the Mountain is directed by Arab-American filmmaker Faisal Attrache. Set in 1922, it tells the story of Syrian farmer and local leader who must decide whether to fight for the freedom of the nation he is striving to build or for the safety and security of his family and community.

Layla, At Last, directed by American filmmaker Julian Alexander tells the story of Layla, who feels a strange familiarity with the Atlas Mountain region in Morocco. It was where her mother lived before moving to Europe. With her mother gone, Layla feels like she has lost her connection with her culture. She soon finds herself in Morocco, following up on reported sightings of Atlas lions, which were long thought to be extinct. As she searches for these lions, Layla travels through remote lands, crossing paths with faces from her mother's stories that are now too familiar.

The festival's public programme also brings together filmmakers, artists and audiences for a range of talks on current issues in filmmaking and the industry. The talks and workshops are free and open to the public.

Happening for the first time this year is the festival's Pitching Forum, a closed, invitation-only event, that serves as a meeting platform for aspiring filmmakers to meet industry professionals. It allows people to receive feedback on their work and find potential collaborators for future productions.  

At the end of the festival, an international jury will award the winners of the best narrative, best documentary and best experimental film awards. The monetary prize will support a filmmaker's future production project.

Across the eight-day festival, more than a dozen films will be screened in each of the short film categories: documentary, narrative and experimental.

Some films to watch out for are: All Inclusive, directed by Swiss filmmaker Corina Schwingruber Ilic, a 10-minute documentary with no dialogue that takes viewers under the spell of mass entertainment on the high seas.

Also, Iranian-director Mohammadreza Vatandoust's Lotus, which tells the story of an old woman who has waited 12 years for permission to cross the Lafour Lake so she can reach an island where the last resident of Lafourak waits for her.

In a 15-minute Japanese experimental film, director Andy Amadi Okoroafor sheds light on loneliness and solitude in a modern world as expressed through dance. Blockhouse is part of a five-part series and is a story told in the context of the high suicide rate in Japan.

Another experimental short film is Ieva Saudargaite Douaihi's Permission to Land. Shot in locations that used to serve as landing strips or airports, the film explores Lebanon's forgotten aeronautical history.

'Liyana' by Aaron and Amanda Kopp. Sharjah Art Foundation
'Liyana' by Aaron and Amanda Kopp. Sharjah Art Foundation

The festival will also screen six feature-length films, including a documentary, Liyana, by Aaron and Amanda Kopp. The 77-minute film is an animated African tale borne in the imaginations of five orphaned children in Eswatini, who collaborate to tell a story of perseverance drawn from their darkest memories and brightest dreams.

Running for 65 minutes is an experimental film by Indian director Yashaswini Raghunandan, the film takes viewers to a village where people use discarded film reels to make toys such as rattlers and whistles. Every day they make hundreds of toys and for each of them, they splice, strip and rip strips of film. A few narratives leak out of the shredded analogues of film and fumigate the surroundings with phantasmagoria.

Screenings from Dh15. Tickets are available to purchase at www.sharjah­