x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Documentaries in the limelight in Abu Dhabi this week

The British Council will be hosting free screenings of documentary films in Abu Dhabi.

Sixto Rodrigues in stills from Searching for Sugarman. Courtesy Red Box Films
Sixto Rodrigues in stills from Searching for Sugarman. Courtesy Red Box Films

Outside of the major film festivals, documentaries tend to get minimal screen time in the UAE. So fans of the genre will be cheered to hear that the British Council will be hosting free screenings of a series of factual movies in the capital, most of which either highlight stories from the Arab world or are prime examples of British expertise in the field.

Ones to look out for include a piece by the esteemed British filmmaker Kim Longinotto. She is best known for Pink Saris, an investigation into violence on women in India, which won the Best Documentary prize at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2010. Her documentary Divorce Iranian Style looks at the laborious processes of annulling marriages in Iran.

Another highly regarded work on show is Town of Runners, a film about Bekoji – an Ethiopian highland town that has produced some of the world’s greatest long-distance athletes.

You could also view this year’s Oscar-winning documentary, Searching for Sugarman, which details the efforts of two devoted fans to track down Sixto Rodriguez, a rock star who seemingly disappeared in the 1990s.

The event will also afford the opportunity to catch the first showing of a trailer for an indigenous project by the Lebanese filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour: Champ of the Camp. His film, which will go on release later this year, charts the fortunes of contestants in an annual singing contest that takes place in the UAE’s labour camps.

The head of projects at the British Council, Michel Bechara, one of the event organisers, hopes the series will help spark debate.

“By bringing this documentary series to Abu Dhabi, with its mix of Mena titles and UK titles, we are genuinely opening a base for dialogue between the two cultures,” he says.

But he also believes the event will fulfil a demand among the filmgoing public.

“If you look at the great attendance of documentaries at the local film festivals, there is a real appetite for this kind of film,” he contends.

“These films deserve stronger support from distributors in the region, especially if some of the titles are relevant to local issues.”

Starting today and continuing until Tuesday, at Vox Cinemas in Marina Mall. Entry is free, but tickets are offered on a first-come basis. For information about screening times, visit www.britishcouncil.org/uae

hberger@thenational.ae