Meet next generation of Emirati directors focusing on hard-hitting issues
The curtain comes down on the 2012 Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) on Sunday - but not before one movie maker is crowned the winner of the Muhr Emirati Film award.
While the festival as a whole celebrates the best of the art form from across the globe, this award is strictly for local filmmakers. In the running for the gong this year are some brave directors who have chosen to tackle hard-hitting and taboo subjects about Emirati life.
“For some people they want to make movies, for me I have to make these movies,” says Mansoor Al Dhaheri, the director of short film Mirage.net. His film grapples with the subject of social networks and malicious websites being used to trap young women into situations that end in rape.
“It is an Emirati film that lifts the lid on a taboo subject here in the society - talking about blackmailing and unfortunate events in the past when a woman ended up being raped,” Mansoor says. The filming process was personally draining for him and tough for the Emirati actresses who took part, particularly when they filmed in a location where an actual sex attack happened.
Reflecting on the power of film as a medium to get your point across, Mansoor says: “If we can save just one girl, if she is going to think twice about this kind of dating, going to these websites and thinking she will find her dream man, it will be worth it.”
Meanwhile, Fatema Abdulla Al Nayeh covers the concept of forced marriage in her short-listed film ‘Life Spray’ .
The film is a ‘fantasy’ which sees the main character preparing to get married when in reality she is preparing to die. A fantasy it may be, but Fatema’s message is clear: “[I want the Emirati woman] to be more confident and to believe in herself and she has to know that no matter what happens she will get through the problems she faces.”
‘Life Spray’ already scooped an award at the Gulf Film Festival earlier this year and Fatema is putting the cash towards getting her next venture off the ground - a film showcasing people who live in far flung parts of the UAE that audiences ‘would never knew existed’.
Also out to challenge the status quo is Amal Al Agroobi. Her film ‘Half Emirati’ was shortlisted for the Muhr Award. A half-Syrian, half-Emirati herself, Amal’s film is shot in a ‘talking heads’ style and features other mixed-race Emiratis talking of discrimination they have faced due to their background and whether they are really accepted. She recalls an interview she did with one man, Ali, who is half-Indian. She says: “When he was younger he was in government school and there was a lot of bullying when your mother is another nationality.
“People would say ‘Look there is the son of the Indian, your dad knocked-up the maid’ and he would get teased by that and had really low self-esteem.
“It is not until he reached adult level and he starts to accept who he is. Some never except it, some hide it,” adds Amal. “This issue has never been spoken about in public before in the UAE. People don’t think it is an issue and I think some get more affected than others assume. I want half-Emiratis not to feel so alone.”
Do these filmmaker’s fear that by raising such issues they will cast the UAE in a negative light?
“If you watch old American movies, you see that it was OK to see a man walking in and slapping his wife, it was shown and even in some movies it was OK to use the ‘N’ word but now society has changed,” says Mansoor Al Dhaheri, who notes that a member of the UAE cyber crimes unit has even asked him to show his film to university students in order to educate them.
“In the end a society and ideology changes with time,” he says.
Extracts of each movie can be viewed on the DIFF YouTube channel. The film festival is on now and finishes on Sunday. For more info visit www.diff.ae