x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Emirati films show a deeper side at Gulf Film Festival

The two highly anticipated feature films showing at the festival share one thing in common: A deeper, more profound exploration of love. We meet the directors to find out more.

A scene from Majid Abdulrazak's Bani Adam. Courtesy Gulf Film Festival
A scene from Majid Abdulrazak's Bani Adam. Courtesy Gulf Film Festival

Starring the in-demand Emirati actor Mansoor Al Feeli and screening tonight, Royal Love, by the Emirati director and writer Jamal Salim, follows an “unattractive” man in love with a beautiful fellow student. He does not, however, have the courage to speak to her, until it is too late.

On the day he decides to confess his feelings for her, he discovers she was involved in a horrible accident that leaves her in a coma for four years. During those years, he is at her bedside every day reading and talking to her. When she wakes, she asks for the “voice” that visited her.

“You have to believe in love. Do not judge someone purely for their physical attributes. Look inside them,” says Salim, who has been a television writer and playwright for 20 years. He is also the director of Abu Dhabi TV and a board member of the UAE Theatrical Association. This is his first feature film.

“It is similar to the story of Beauty and the Beast. My lead character falls for this man simply because of the way he treats her. He appears to her like an angel.”

The cast includes nine Emiratis and one Tunisian as the lead actress.

“Love is a universal story and can be tackled from any direction. In Royal Love, the emotion is carried out without hesitation or fear,” he says.

Last year, Salim also wrote and directed the short film Slow Death, the winner of the Official Gulf Competition at the Gulf Film Festival.

“I used my own budget [for Royal Love] so we finished shooting in 14 days. We faced issues with financial support, the majority of funding is being pumped into foreign movies,” says Salim, who will take the film to the Abu Dhabi and Dubai film festivals later this year, then internationally.

“I hope it will be released in the cinema. It’s not about the money; I want to see how it will be received,” he says. “This is my first feature so maybe I will have made mistakes, but the quality of our films will get better only with support: financial, an ease in permissions and -locations.”

Also facing similar setbacks is the Emirati director Majid Abdulrazak, whose film Bani Adam is screening today and who also directed Arabian Sands (2008), about his close friend and the famed explorer Wilfred Thesiger, and Eqaab (2006), based on The Count of Monte Cristo.

“We do our best in filmmaking – our movies are great quality, the sound, the music, dialogue – we explore drama, tragedy and love. The problem is theatre and audience numbers are limited. In order for a film to succeed it needs a wide audience but the cinemas do not show us that welcome,” says Abdulrazak. “We suffer many restrictions. If it weren’t for my passion and desire, it is discouraging and painful.”

He financed Bani Adam (Human Being) with a personal budget of Dh3 million. The movie was shot in multiple locations across the UAE and stars Emirati and regional actors.

The “entertaining drama” is about two friends who discover they are in love with the same woman, of people haunted by past crimes and those with a devilish nature.

“The story has many roots and directions. It’s a combination of two to three stories centred around the main character. As the title suggests, it’s about being human – the reactions, sentiments and feelings of love, of doubt and all the mistakes we may make,” says Abdulrazak.



? watch

Bani Adam Today, 2.30pm at Grand Cinemas 2

Royal Love

Tonight, 6.15pm at Grand Cinemas 2


Tomorrow, 2.45pm at Grand Cinemas 9

In Case You Forgot

Tomorrow, 2.45pm at Grand Cinemas 9

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