The past few years have seen the emergence of the UAE film scene, with titles such as Sea Shadow and City of Life, aided by ever-expanding film festivals, gaining headlines both at home and abroad. But filmmaking in the country didn't begin with Nawaf Al Janahi or Ali Mostafa.
"There were people doing stuff a long time ago," says Alia Yunis, professor of communications at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. "But everything is scattered and nobody has ever tried to say who did what. DVDs have been lost and filmmakers have disappeared."
This is something that Yunis is hoping to change. Together with two librarians at the university and a programming manager from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, she's launching the UAE's first National Film Library and Archives, unveiled on the opening night of the Zayed University Middle East Film Festival on Monday.
"We applied for a grant from the university to build the library here because we've got a brand-new campus with state-of-the-art archival rooms," she says.
The original concept of the project was to source old Emirati films - mainly shorts - that could in the future help explain the first beginnings of filmmaking in the country. "You can look at Egypt as an example," says Yunis. "It has this amazing film industry and so much of it is lost. We don't want that to happen when there's no reason for it." But the film library and archives will also be extended to include UAE films that have played in local festivals, on television or theatrically, those that were made with local producers, such as Dubai-based Filmworks, and even those that saw financing come from the country. This means that alongside short films from the Emirates Film Competition and Gulf Film Festival will be titles such as Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, The Help and even Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. (Both The Help and Ghost Rider were produced by Image Nation, a company owned by Abu Dhabi Media, which also owns The National .)
"We're also going to be keeping a news archive of all the news that's ever been written about UAE films, plus an archive of the Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Zayed University film festivals," says Yunis. "So it's not just films, but also catalogues, posters and artwork."
The library and archives will be open to researchers, historians, producers, directors and anyone with an interest in the UAE's film industry.
"As the country grows, there'll be more films that fall into the library so there should be a base to start," says Yunis. "None of us on the project are Emirati, but we all value films so much. It's not just the films themselves but the history of people."
To watch trailers of the films being screened at the festival, visit www.thenational.ae/multimedia