Hassan Kiyany filing his documentary about an abandoned school. Courtesy Ammar Al Attar
Hassan Kiyany filing his documentary about an abandoned school. Courtesy Ammar Al Attar

Emirati filmmaker debuts UAE’s first interactive film at Diff

Watching TV and films is a much more social experience in the age of social media. Many people now view a show on one screen, while simultaneously tapping on another about their reactions to what’s happening.

But what about a film that allows the viewer to pick their own beginning, middle or end?

That’s what the Emirati director Hassan Kiyany has just made.

His first interactive film, also billed as the country’s first interactive film, received its premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival and on Wednesday it went live for the world to see.

Zaabil iDoc, a documentary showing efforts to photograph the now abandoned Zabeel Secondary School for Girls in Deira, Dubai, allows viewers to pick and choose the order in which they watch the scenes, and to click through to extra content.

“We as viewers usually sit and watch the movies and shows,” says Kiyany, from Dubai. “But in the world of the internet there are many more possibilities. We don’t necessarily need to stick to the director’s choice of sequences. We can choose our own.”

Kiyany, 32, has been making films for a decade. His most recent offering, a documentary titled Marwan the Boxer about a female Emirati pugilist, won first prize in the short documentary competition at this year's Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

“With this project, it was a story that I wanted to tell.”

Zabeel Secondary School was built more than 35 years ago but has been vacant since 2011. The school taught a lot of orphans and children from very low income families. It was one of the emirate’s oldest schools and catered for about 300 pupils.

“We don’t know what the future holds for it,” Kiyany says.

The buildings and courtyards of the school are eerily empty. The film shows dirty whiteboards with faint writings and drawings.

There are trees and shrubs growing in the courtyards and graffiti dotted around the walls including a typical teenage scrawl of “Jamila my love, I love you so much and for ever”.

“A friend of mine, Ammar Al Attar, likes to go to these old sorts of places, abandoned places, to capture through analogue photo­graphy the details that remain before the buildings go away forever.”

Al Attar, who was born in Dubai and now lives in Ajman, uses a Linhof Super Technika III camera, dating back to the Second World War, to capture the abandoned school. Viewers can click on info buttons in certain scenes to view Al Attar’s biography, and also learn more about the camera. He speaks in Arabic but there are English subtitles.

There are also pop-ups to Wikipedia pages for Sheikh Zayed, the founding President, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

“You don’t need any apps or plug-ins – it’s very simple for people to watch and interact with,” says Kiyany. The film went live on the internet on Wednesday, which he says is just the beginning. “In the film we will ask viewers if they or their families studied at the school and if they can share these ideas and memories.” Tweets marked #Zaabil­iDoc can be sent or viewed at any time during the film.

Interactive movies have existed for more than 20 years. One of the first was the 1992 short film I'm Your Man. This was the first offering from director Bob Bejan's interactive cinema company Interfilm and centred on a plot to expose someone to the FBI for extortion.

Cinemagoers were asked to use controlpads to choose one of three directions the story should take, every couple of minutes.

According to an article in The New York Times written shortly after the film's release, the filmmakers had to generate about 90 minutes worth of film, with about 68 different scene variations. The audience saw about 20 minutes of footage.

The writer describes a key moment where the audience was asked to decide whether a central character should try to escape from the roof on which he is trapped by running through an open door, jumping to the roof of the next building or revealing his identity as an FBI agent.

“This being New York, the audience screams out in unison ‘Jump! Jump!’ while pressing the buttons. The votes are electronically tallied, and Jack, after deliberating for a few moments, responds to the will of the people. The audience whoops with delight.”

Kiyany is not expecting his audience to be as excited as the viewers of I'm Your Man, but he does hope his documentary sparks more interest in interactive films. "It is the first for the UAE, and first for us. There are so many possibilities with interactive and this is a different approach to interactive stories."

• Watch Zaabil iDoc at www.zaabilidoc.com

The specs: 2018 Jaguar F-Type Convertible

Price, base / as tested: Dh283,080 / Dh318,465

Engine: 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Power: 295hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque: 400Nm @ 1,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 7.2L / 100km


Author: Alasdair Soussi

Pages: 300

Publisher: Scotland Street Press

Available: December 1


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

The specs

Engine: 5.2-litre V10

Power: 640hp at 8,000rpm

Torque: 565Nm at 6,500rpm

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto

Price: From Dh1 million

On sale: Q3 or Q4 2022


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates


Google wasn't new to busting out April Fool's jokes: before the Gmail "prank", it tricked users with mind-reading MentalPlex responses and said well-fed pigeons were running its search engine operations .

In subsequent years, they announced home internet services through your toilet with its "patented GFlush system", made us believe the Moon's surface was made of cheese and unveiled a dating service in which they called founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page "Stanford PhD wannabes ".

But Gmail was all too real, purportedly inspired by one – a single – Google user complaining about the "poor quality of existing email services" and born "millions of M&Ms later".

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8

Transmission: seven-speed

Power: 720hp

Torque: 770Nm

Price: Dh1,100,000

On sale: now

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024


Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).


Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).


Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).


September to November or March to May; this is when visitors are most likely to see what they’ve come for.


Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari - Chitwan National Park resort (tajhotels.com) is a one-hour drive from Bharatpur Airport with stays costing from Dh1,396 per night, including taxes and breakfast. Return airport transfers cost from Dh661.


Etihad Airways regularly flies from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu from around Dh1,500 per person return, including taxes. Buddha Air (buddhaair.com) and Yeti Airlines (yetiairlines.com) fly from Kathmandu to Bharatpur several times a day from about Dh660 return and the flight takes just 20 minutes. Driving is possible but the roads are hilly which means it will take you five or six hours to travel 148 kilometres.


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

One-off T20 International: UAE v Australia

When: Monday, October 22, 2pm start

Where: Abu Dhabi Cricket, Oval 1

Tickets: Admission is free

Australia squad: Aaron Finch (captain), Mitch Marsh, Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Darcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa, Peter Siddle

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


Fujairah 130 for 8 in 20 overs

(Sandy Sandeep 29, Hamdan Tahir 26 no, Umair Ali 2-15)

Sharjah 131 for 8 in 19.3 overs

(Kashif Daud 51, Umair Ali 20, Rohan Mustafa 2-17, Sabir Rao 2-26)

Did you know?

Brunch has been around, is some form or another, for more than a century. The word was first mentioned in print in an 1895 edition of Hunter’s Weekly, after making the rounds among university students in Britain. The article, entitled Brunch: A Plea, argued the case for a later, more sociable weekend meal. “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well,” the piece read. “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” More than 100 years later, author Guy Beringer’s words still ring true, especially in the UAE, where brunches are often used to mark special, sociable occasions.


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Secret Pigeon Service: Operation Colomba, Resistance and the Struggle to Liberate Europe
Gordon Corera, Harper Collins

India cancels school-leaving examinations

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Sun jukebox

Rufus Thomas, Bear Cat (The Answer to Hound Dog) (1953)

This rip-off of Leiber/Stoller’s early rock stomper brought a lawsuit against Phillips and necessitated Presley’s premature sale to RCA.

Elvis Presley, Mystery Train (1955)

The B-side of Presley’s final single for Sun bops with a drummer-less groove.

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two, Folsom Prison Blues (1955)

Originally recorded for Sun, Cash’s signature tune was performed for inmates of the titular prison 13 years later.

Carl Perkins, Blue Suede Shoes (1956)

Within a month of Sun’s February release Elvis had his version out on RCA.

Roy Orbison, Ooby Dooby (1956)

An essential piece of irreverent juvenilia from Orbison.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Great Balls of Fire (1957)

Lee’s trademark anthem is one of the era’s best-remembered – and best-selling – songs.