The UK/UAE Short Film Festival officially launched last night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Abu Dhabi with screenings of eight short films – four by UK film makers and four Emirati, jointly sponsored by the British Council and Image Nation Abu Dhabi.
The films will now head off on a tour of the Northern Emirates, offering residents of RAK, Fujairah, Um Al Quwain and Al Ain a rare opportunity to watch local and international short films in their local community.
The shorts represent a broad spectrum of the movie viewing experience, from Abdulrahman Al Madani's study of the relationship between an infirm elderly Arab woman and her Filipina maid, Beshkara, to Shola Amoo's stylised and poetry-infused study of Othello in context of modern race relations, Dear Mr Shakespeare.
The travelling festival is part of the UK/UAE Year of Collaboration 2017, and although details are still under wraps for now, film fans can look forward to further collaboration between the two film making communities at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, which promises a strong British theme to the line-up, which will be announced later this month.
The screenings were preceded by a day of panels, discussions and workshops as part of the UK/UAE Film Symposium, which featured speakers including local film makers Nawaf Al Janahi and Nayla Al Khaja, UK film makers Shola Amoo, Mike Forshaw and BAFTA-winner Caroline Bartleet, Image Nation chief Michael Garin and dignitaries including the British Ambassador to the UAE Philip Parham.
An audience of local film makers, industry figures and students heard discussions about the role of the modern film maker, using film as a tool for cultural exchange and the ongoing efforts to establish the UAE as a regional, and ultimately global, hub for film making.
The conversations certainly raised some interesting points – Garin seemingly softening his stance on the idea of legislation to get locally produced films into cinemas was an interesting observation, as the Image Nation chief has previously been a staunch opponent of government-driven schemes such as France's one euro tax on Hollywood film tickets to support the French film industry.
Ultimately, though, talking shops don’t get films made, and Al Janahi perhaps put it most succinctly when he noted: “Such events and talks are crucial to move forward, and I hope the efforts extend towards film co-productions between the UK and the UAE.”
For audiences, however, the big question will be where they can see the films next, and the tour moves forward as follows:
Monday, November 13, 6pm: RAK Cultural Centre
Tuesday, November 14, 6pm: Fujairah Cultural Centre
Wednesday, November 15, 6pm: Um Al Quwain Cultural Centre
Thursday, November 16, 6pm: Al Ain, Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre