New Arab film directors discuss their films and the IWC Filmmaker award
Getting a film off the ground takes a great story, excellent team and a lot of financial investment. As part of the film festival, the IWC Filmmaker Award will give prominent and emerging directors from the Gulf a chance to win more than Dhs360,000 and see their screen dreams produced. Benita Adesuyan caught up with the three shortlisted directors who are hoping to win.
Saeed Salmeen Al Murry, Going to Heaven Nationality: Emirati
What’s the story of your film? Going to Heaven is about an 11-year-old kid, Sultan, who has lost his grandmother, he doesn’t know where she is but he heard that she might be in a place called Fujairah. Sultan lives in Abu Dhabi with his father and stepmother whom he dislikes, so when things get bad at home, he asks his friend to come with him and they go in search of his grandmother.
What would it mean to you, if you won the prize? I would be so proud and happy, and it would give me more confidence that I am doing the right movies.
Why did you want to be a filmmaker? Ever since I was a kid I loved cinema and I was 13 years old when I wanted to make films. I had a passion and I had old cameras and I’d start shooting in my neighbourhood in Abu Dhabi. I was only doing short films but when more competitions and festivals came to the region I started making features.
Ahd Kamel, Sandfish Nationality: Saudi Arabian
As both an actress and filmmaker you have won film competitions before. How will this prize rank among your other wins? My first film premiered at DIFF 2009 and we won at Gulf Film Festival in Beirut. I had another short film called La Sainteté that received a Golden Bear nomination at the Berlinale and won the Golden Aleph at the Beirut International Film Festival. I also starred in Wadjda, the first film shot entirely in Saudi, so for me it’s all about building the blocks and finally reaching this stage is great, especially coming from Saudi – there’s nothing that you can compare it to or even follow in its footsteps.
What is your film about? Sandfish is a coming-of-age story that takes place in the late fifties here in the Emirates and it is the story of a young girl who is sold to a pearl merchant as his third wife. It tells the story of her leaving the mountains and her village home to enter a new role as the wife of a wealthy pearl merchant. It’s about perseverance, femininity and it’s also a very rare view, as we don’t often hear stories about women in the region let alone something from back then.
What inspired you to make films? I found filmmaking by chance. I studied animation and I hated it. So I bought a camera, went to film school, and I found myself in love with making films. Essentially it’s about story telling.
I grew up listening to stories from my grandmother, and it was all oral so it’s nice to be part of a generation that’s telling these stories visually. Abdullah Boushahri, The Water Nationality: Kuwaiti
Tell us about The Water. It’s about the water peddlers, 100 years ago in Kuwait city. Drought came across the city in the beginning of the century before oil was found, and water peddlers who were the ones who were in charge of the distribution of water. Thirst is a main subject in the film and I tackle that through a love story. A young boy with an amazing voice falls in love with a girl from a different class, and they struggle for their love, and the father struggles to deliver water for the city.
How do you feel about the nomination? It just puts you in a wonderful state of mind, because you haven’t produced the film yet but the industry is celebrating and helping you, almost grooming you regardless of whether you win or not. Just being nominated with my fellow filmmakers is an honour.
Your first major feature film was made in 2006. What’s your view on Arab film now? I think today, unlike ten years ago, we have a film festival that exists as a platform to push films forward. Today we have a better chance to tell our stories and I personally feel that after 9/11 the eyes of the world has shifted more on the Arab world, particularly with the Arab Spring, people are curious about us and we are responsible as filmmakers to make Arabic films better than before.
What difference does winning a prize like this make to a filmmaker? Winning is a matter of choice – the committee have to make a choice between the three. I would like to make the film that’s voted the best, but it’s not my call to make! The winner of the IWC Filmmaker Award will be announced on Thursday December 11.