DUBAI // Filmmakers behind 14 entries to Dubai's first Muhr Emirati awards gathered yesterday at the Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) to express their views on the expanding nascent film industry.
The gathering was organised to coincide with the first award screenings, which started last night at the Mall of the Emirates.
The line-up of short films, documentaries and features have all been shortlisted for the Dh35,000 prize.
Speaking before the screening of his 37-minute feature, Rasa'el Ela Falasteen, or Letters to Palestine, Rashid al Marri, who is also a TV producer, said having a competition dedicated to Emiratis as part of Diff was essential to the development of professionals in his field.
"The Muhr Emirati raises the level of exposure for Emirati filmmakers because it gives them a platform to screen their work that will help to attract an international audience," he said. "Diff is such a well-established festival with a reputation for showing really good quality films, so if the Diff brand promotes your film it is a big push," he added.
Saud Mohammed Merwesh, a 22-year-old IT professional from Ras al Khaimah, said having his seven-minute short, Soweer, about a child's game, shown at Diff gave him a good chance to meet people from around the world.
He also said that it was relatively easy for a young person to make films in the UAE and that he hoped competitions would encourage the next generation to see film as a viable career option.
"I had Dh50,000 in funding from the Emirates Foundation and support from Diff, and this is only something I do in my spare time," he said. "I think if you work hard it is definitely something you could do full-time."
The Muhr Emiratis were introduced at Diff for the first time this year after the success of the Arab and Africa/Asia awards. With Dh75,000 in prize money, the awards will be handed out on December 20, the closing night of the festival.
The judges are Samir Farid, a film critic, Ahmed Al Mulla, from the Riyadh Film Festival, and Ibrahim Abdul Karim Al Mulla, who is a poet and literary critic.
Nujoom al Ghanem, who made a documentary film Hamama about a 90-year-old lady from Al Dhaid who is a shaman and herbalist, said she saw the competition, and filmmaking in general, as a tool for raising awareness.
Addressing the subject matter of her film she said: "I think even the younger generation of Emiratis are not aware of how life used to be, let alone people from other cultures. This is an opportunity to show people an example of a strong and independent woman and maybe provide inspiration."
She added, however, that filmmakers in the GCC needed more support.