Dubai's Saber sweeps Arab film awards

Dubai-based filmmaker’s In Her Eyes takes Best Film prize plus three others at the second annual Arab Film Studio Awards in Abu Dhabi.

A delighted Sara Saber, right, shows her pleasure at picking up four awards, including Best Film, at the Arab Film Studio Awards last night at the Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Lee Hoagland / The National
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The next generation of  filmmakers from the Arab world, including the UAE, took centre stage yesterday at the Arab Film Studio awards.

The competition, established in 2011 by twofour54 and Image Nation, reached its conclusion at the Yas Viceroy Hotel with six finalists vying for a range of awards including the coveted best short film.

A Dubai resident, Sara Saber, dominated the evening with her entry In Her Eyes.

The lyrical short film, detailing the troubled relationship between mother and daughter, swooped the awards with wins for the best short film, screenplay, editing and cinematography.

“I am really overwhelmed,” the 29-year-old Egyptian said.

“We shot the film in three days and we went through a lot. I love to thank all the crew and people who backed me and for supporting some of my crazy decisions. At the end of the day, the whole process was worth it.”

As well as a range of glittering trophies, Saber’s short film award comes with Dh50,000 to fund her next film in addition to film development opportunities with Image Nation.

Image Nation chairman, Mohammed Al Mubarak, praised the quality of the finalists this year.

“The standard of submissions we received has exceeded our expectations,” he said.

“Each year the quality and quantity of videos we receive succeeds the previous year and is a real testament to the fact that the film community in the Middle East continues to grow.”

The finalists came from the UAE, Oman, Algeria, Syria and Egypt.

Some of the plotlines of the films shed light on different aspects of the UAE experience.

Omani director and Abu Dhabi resident Muneer Al Busaidi’s A Heated Interview is a comic look at a young Emirati searching for employment.

The jokes come thick and fast as the luckless Adel can’t seem to land an interview no matter how hard he tries.

Dubai-based American filmmaker, Allegra Brooksbank, focused her lens on the attachment children feel for the family nanny.

The affecting and offbeat Longing chronicles six-year-old Liddy’s final days with her nanny Bara before the latter returns home.

Emirati filmmaker Saleh Al Shunnar’s Recycled focused on the pollution effecting the UAE landscape.

When a filmmaker decides to scrap shooting a historical movie in the UAE due to the amount of rubbish littering the set, the main protagonist of Recycled – an Emirati assistant director – decides to salvage what’s left of the footage to create a short film.

Al Shunnar, a Dubai resident, explained the film is about taking responsibility for our actions.

“We, in the UAE, have been blessed with great leadership that provides us with all the tools we need to in order to have big dreams, achieve them and be the best in the world,” he said. “The rest is now up to me.”

Al Ain’s Belal Anteple’s Mr Ideas was arguably the most visually?dazzling of the lot.

With Gothic sets recalling the work of director Tim Burton, the Syrian filmmaker’s entry is based in a fairy tale world where the title character must face-off against a conniving witch.

Smoke, by the Dubai-based Algerian Mohammed Islem Cherchali, is a black comedy about a British expat going to extraordinary lengths to kick his smoking habit.

The night, however, belonged to Saber who spent the evening celebrating her four awards with her cast and crew. “When you are shooting the film you are not thinking about the competition and who wins,” she said.

"It is all about doing the best that you can. That is the true worth of the Arab Film Studio competition."