ABU DHABI // A Lebanese woman who will make a film about rappers in Al Ain, a Pakistani former journalist curious about the "unsung heroes" who built the Sheikh Zayed mosque, a Palestinian woman interested in the UAE's cultural identity, and an Iraqi-Dutch man looking at the power of poetry on Emiratis have been chosen as the winners of New Voices, the Abu Dhabi Film Commission's (ADFC) annual competition.
The commission, which launched the competition in December to produce material for regional television, selected eight finalists to take part in an intensive three-week training course in February. The winners were chosen based on the quality of three-minute films they produced during the course and by the strength of their ideas for a half-hour documentary. The four runners-up will assist the winners in producing their films, which will begin shooting in two weeks. They will air on Baynunah TV in May.
The productions will be funded by the ADFC, which will also provide the winners with professional directors, producers and sound engineers. One of the four winners, Farazdak al Kaabi, 33, an Iraqi-Dutch man, who is making a film about the influence of poetry on Emirati identity, said the competition had been "a beautiful chance to learn documentary making from very great teachers from abroad". Rola Shamas, from Lebanon, will produce a film that follows a group of rap musicians from Al Ain.
"I was not expecting to win and I was sad that all the finalists did not get through, but I'm on it now," said Ms Shamas, 38. "It will be intensive work and we will have back-to-back shooting days and then straight into the editing process. But I like the momentum." The Palestinian filmmaker Natalie al Shami, 29, said she was nervous about the nature of her subject. "I chose to make a film about the development of a cultural identity in the Emirates and I am overwhelmed to have had the idea accepted. But at the same time, I am feeling very challenged."
The final winner, Amna Ehtesham, a former journalist from Pakistan, said she had "been in the media for a few years and the way we are getting opportunities like this competition now is really great. "There are so many people who are working hard across the globe but only a few to have been appreciated like this. I am fortunate." Her film about "unsung heroes", the gardeners, electricians and construction workers who built the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, will begin filming on April 5.