DUBAI// Discrimination faced by Muslims in America after 9/11, and the impact of peer pressure and academic challenges faced by students were among the themes explored at a recent school film contest.
Grade 12 students from Al Khaleej National School in Dubai screened their short movies for parents and other students as part of Student Voice, a first-of-its-kind initiative to showcase their talent and creativity.
For students such as Amani Abedraboo, making a film was an opportunity to put a spotlight on stereotypes.
A Second Look, submitted by the 17-year-old and a group of her female friends, was picked as the contest's winning entry.
"Our film is based in the US," said Ms Abedraboo, who directed and produced the 10-minute film.
"It is about a little Muslim girl being bullied in school after the 9/11 attacks. It shows the change in perceptions towards Muslims based on what people saw on television."
Ms Abedraboo, an American national, said the film was based on her own experiences growing up in the US.
"I personally noticed a big change after 9/11. We wanted to make a film that was inspirational and people could relate to."
It took them two months to script, shoot and edit the film.
Khalid Mansoor Al Awadhi, 17, said his film, A Friend's Influence, which he made with five schoolmates, highlights the impact of peer pressure.
"Our film is how a friend can influence and affect a person's life," said Mr Al Awadhi, an Emirati.
"The story is about a young boy who meets a bad person. He offers him a cigarette and he gives in. We then show his life as an adult, how he starts talking to his friends and starts taking drugs."
The budding filmmaker said creating the nine-minute movie was a learning experience.
"Some students were shy. But after you make them act, they had more confidence. I didn't know my friends were so creative. If such projects are done across all schools, it will be great."
The Student Voice initiative is a collaboration between Gems Education and Canon Middle East. It was also held at two other Gems Dubai schools: Cambridge International School and Winchester School.
Nineteen films were submitted after well-known Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja launched the project in January. Before filming, students also took part in full-day, short-film workshops run by the SAE Institute.
Nigel Cropley, principal at Al Khaleej National School, said: "The student films captured how common issues are dealt with individually according to our own cultural or religious beliefs. Their messages are applicable to students across the UAE and are truly universal."