Children’s International Film Festival in Dubai

More than 80 movies from 35 countries screened at 'edutainment' event

Budding filmmakers and below, some of the screenings at this year’s CIFF
Budding filmmakers and below, some of the screenings at this year’s CIFF
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The first ever Children’s International Film Festival comes to the UAE, bringing with it movies made by youths, for youths.

Dubai seems to hold some sort of film festival every other week, but none of them has ever focused exclusively on the creative talents and entertainment needs of the UAE’s youngsters. Until now. The first Children’s International Film Festival (CIFF) starts on Thursday April 24 and runs until Friday May 2, bringing movies for children from around the world to the UAE.

CIFF was created by husband and wife team Deepak and Jyoti Jain, a couple who both have backgrounds in film and the arts who noticed that despite a plethora of film content, not enough of it was being made available to young cinema enthusiasts in the region.

‘Distributors don’t look at it seriously because they’re not big bucks products,’ says Deepak, the festival’s director. ‘So we came up with the concept to create a platform for all this clean, meaningful content to come into the country and expose the public to something different.’

Jyoti and Deepak run The Film Studio in Dubai Studio City and through their work see the vast amount of quality films that don’t get a deserving audience. When they announced the festival they were swamped with hundreds of films to pick from to create their screenings, and after a lengthy selection process they whittled it down to 50 films, which will be screened to the public.

Where this festival differs from many others is that it not only shows films for kids, it screens movies created by them, too. Deepak and Jyoti have been running filmmaking workshops with young people in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah, teaching kids aged 12 to 17, how to write scripts, direct and shoot their stories, an opportunity that Deepak says helps youngsters not only engage with film, but become creators and not just consumers.

‘We believe filmmaking shapes personality. This is one domain where arts meets science. Operating a camera is science but focusing the shot is art. Making film requires teamwork, planning and breaking down a big thought into a small shot of three seconds – that is something no curriculum can teach.’

The organisers have been impressed with the level of participation and quality of the films made by the students and the kids will have their films premiered on the big screen during the festival, and can be stars for the day as they walk the red carpet. Winning films from the festival will automatically be entered into children’s film festivals in Seattle, Valencia, Nairobi and Paris – making the youngsters international stars.

While it’s the kids that will take the limelight on the red carpet, the festival still has something to offer adult cinema-goers too. The weekends of the festival Friday April 25, Saturday 26 and Friday May 2 are the public screenings when fans of all ages can watch the films at Vox Cinemas in Mall of the Emirates.

The pair are enthusiastic about the diversity of films on offer but share a few highlights worth making a date with. ‘Horizon Beautiful is being premiered at the festival and it’s truly inspirational,’ says Jyoti. ‘It’s about how far we go to follow our dreams.’

Deepak has also directed Slam Downs, a short film made by children with special needs in conjunction with Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs. Deepak and Jyoti wanted to ensure that all children were represented, but at the same time, not to make a pitying documentary. The film stars young people from the centre in a live action film with a message of acknowledgement and acceptance. ‘Whether someone has the potential to be the next Spielberg, only time will tell,’ says Deepak. ‘But at least they have the opportunity to participate and one day these kids will have their own kids and will be able to show their film to them too.’
Children’s International Film Festival. Dhs20 adults, Dhs10 students. Thursday April 24-Friday May 2. Public screenings on Friday 25-26 April and May 2. Vox Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, www.ciff.ae (055 533 2807).

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