New Horizons

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Heated InterviewYoung talent in the Arab world is emerging – be it documentaries, feature films or short films. While the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai had quite a few expressions from young film makers that spanned several issues – right from curio collectors, to eve teasing, substance abuse, relationships etc, the Arab Film Studio awards in Abu Dhabi commemorated a few aspiring film makers.

Arab Film Studio is an Image Nation initiative run in partnership with twofour54. The program has the goal of giving those with filmmaking talent the chance to succeed.This year’s cycle began with thirteen filmmakers taking part in the three-month long Arab Film Studio training programme, which included two weeks of master classes with leading professionals and specially designed sessions run by twofour54.That was then whittled down to shortlist six who all worked on the final edit using twofour54’s post production facilities and editors.

The finalists were:

1. Mr. Ideas – Belal Anteple (Syria)

2. In Her Eyes – Sara Saber (Egypt)

3. A Heated Interview – Muneer Al Busaidi (Oman)
4. Smoke – Mohamed Islem Cherchali (Algeria)

5. Longing – Allegra Hamilton (USA)

6. Recycled – Saleh Al Shunnar (UAE)

The judging panel for the finalists was made up of film professionals and included Hollywood star Jude Law, David Frankel, the director of the Oscar nominated ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and Emirati film director Nawaf Al-Janahi. Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Image Nation, said: “This has been another exceptional year for Arab Film Studio which culminated in a ceremony showcasing the movie making talent that is developing in the region.”

“There is real passion from everyone involved in Arab Film Studio and we wish to thank everyone who took part, congratulate the finalists and winners and encourage even more people to step forward and show us what they can do next year.”


The aspiring Egyptian movie maker Sara Saber took home the prestigious Arab Film Studio 2013 award for Best Film at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi. Her short film In Her Eyes was a poignant tale of an artist mother and her daughter. In a room filled with poems written on paper stuck to the walls, the film aptly showcased the artistic temperament of the mother who was a gifted poetess but couldn’t survive commercially since poetry seldom fetches monetary value. The daughter on the other hand understands it and decides to join the workforce as a secretary to the anguish of the mother who feels that she has groomed her in the climate of literature and art and her daughter is succumbing to the commercial world leaving behind her art. The film ends aptly with a resolution and is a touching tale of the mother and the daughter. Sara Saber spoke of her pride at winning the award for her short film In Her Eyes, which according to her is about the tense relationship between a mother and her daughter. “There was such emotion for me when it was announced I was the winner as so many people believed in me and supported me through this,” said Sara, who lives in Dubai.

“This has truly given me the confidence to move forward with making films and it shows that if you have passion for something you can make a dream come true.”

In addition to securing a 50,000 AED development deal with Image Nation for winning the main award, In Her Eyes also won Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Edit.


During the ceremony at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Viceroy Hotel, Saleh Al Shunnar, an Emirati, won the award for Best Sound Design with his entry Recycled. The film depicted a European crew that tries to shoot a film in the deserts of the UAE and dirties the place and treats its crew (that include locals) insultingly. The protagonist of the film tries to reason with his British director who only has contempt for him. The director decides to shelve the film when the protagonist offers to buy the footage he has shot and creates a beautiful film on eco conservation. Belal Anteple, a budding Syrian filmmaker who now lives in Al Ain, won Best Costume with his entry Mr. Ideas. The story depicts a man called Mr. Ideas who is a happy go lucky man who provides the world with ideas and is content with the fact that everyone is happy taking an idea home. Things change when a witch tries to buy from him an evil idea and he succumbs to the desire of money and his character undergoes transformation. The award for Best Music went to Allegra Hamilton, an American expatriate living in Abu Dhabi, for her short film Longing. The film is about a child who longs for her nanny and who later comes to terms with her absence.


What is interesting is that the current rung of film makers have good mentors in the earlier rung of directors. The producer of Emirati-made movie Sea Shadow has urged budding Arab filmmakers to grasp the opportunities available to them in a maturing local film industry. The growth of the industry in the past decade means there is now a support network for emerging filmmakers to develop their skills, access information and seek funding, according to Jordanian Rami Yasin.

“During the 80’s and 90’s, the journey to becoming a filmmaker was lonely and where you had to travel abroad to lean about it and access information,” he said.

“The industry is constantly developing and growing in our region and this means emerging filmmakers have a lot more support in today’s world.”

Rami, who produced Image Nation’s first Emirati feature film, Sea Shadow, spoke at an Image Nation event on Monday evening at twofour54 on subjects including securing funds for movie-creation and how to enter work into film festivals.

The Bopcon & Sawaleef event is a monthly discussion that invites filmmakers to share their filmmaking experiences.

“Networking is the ultimate skill a filmmaker can have when looking to fund their films,” he said. “Filmmaking is a very hands-on job, and it’s crucial to get to know other industry professionals and learn from their experience.

“Events like Bopcorn are a great way to meet and link with other filmmakers, form beneficial alliances and learn various aspects of the industry that you can’t read in a book.

Rami showed two short films during the event, including ‘Like Twenty Impossibles’ – the first short film from the Arab world to be accepted by the Cannes Film Festival more than ten years ago.

The popular monthly event is now looking to the year ahead, asking fans to submit ideas on what they would like to see at upcoming events.

“With access to so many fantastic filmmakers in the UAE, events like Bopcorn & Sawaleef can really make a difference.” explained Mohammed Al Otaiba, the head of Image Nation.

Baghdad Messi

La Haine