ABU DHABI // The new generation of young filmmakers that turned out for last night's opening of the second Zayed University Middle East Film Festival is ensuring the future of the industry, a festival chief said.
The vice president of Zayed University, Dr Sulaiman al Jassim, said the three-day festival would continue to grow in size and stature.
"The idea behind this festival is that we need to give confidence to students," he added.
"The cinema industry is going to be a new industry in the emirate in the future.
"The emirate is a financial capital, a tourism capital, a trade capital, and soon it will be an art, cinema and culture capital. I am sure in coming years it is going to continue to mature, and I look forward to seeing it grow more in the future."
The event was also given a boost when Zayed University and the New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi announced the launch of a Master of Fine Arts in Film joint degree.
The second annual festival will see 40 student-made films screen at the university, free of charge, today and tomorrow.
Dubai Higher College of Technology student Khaled Abdulla became the first recipient of the Aspiring Filmmaker Award for his film 11pm.
"My film, which I directed, is part comedy and part horror. Just being told I was a candidate [for this award] was an honour," he said.
The Emirati short My Disability is Behind my Creativity, which delves into the UAE's disabled community and was directed by Zayed University students Salwa Hamood and Hadeel Ali, was given the honour of opening the festival.
Hamood, who is studying film and broadcast, said the feeling of having her film chosen to open the ceremony was "amazing".
"This festival is helping me to find my own way in filmmaking," she said.
In addition to the film industry insiders and students who were present at last night's ceremony, the screening was attended by a group of adults from the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs, some of whom featured in the production.
The festival was also attended by Reem al Majid, a former student at Zayed University and one of the co-creators of the festival. "I never would have believed I would be standing here tonight telling everyone my story. This festival evolved from a tiny idea my friend and I had and it really started from nothing."
Awards for Best Documentary, Best Narrative, Best News Story and Best Animation will be handed out during the closing ceremony tomorrow.