x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Emirati short film set to deliver closelook at Palestinian camps

An Emirati short film is set to deliver an up-closelook at some of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon

Premiering as part of the Emirates Film Competition on Monday, Dreams in Their Eyes, sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and directed by the recently graduated Zayed University students Abeer Al Marzooqi, Khawal Al Mamaari and Ayesha Al Ameri, chronicles the work of the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, a US-based charity helping displaced families in the refugee camps in Shatila, Bourj Al Barajneh, Ein Al Helwa and Burj Al Shamali.

Al Marzooqi, 24, says that when the idea was first floated at the university six months ago, where the students studied multimedia and design, the trio knew the only way to make it work was to travel to Lebanon themselves.

"We didn't want to make a film about things we heard about or what we imagine is going on there. We also didn't want to just make a film using information obtained through telephone calls or emails," she says.

"We wanted to deliver a clear picture of what is happening there and the great humanitarian work the charity does. It had to be realistic and that's why we left."

Al Marzooqi explains that the filmmakers' parents were not initially keen on the idea, justifiably citing safety concerns.

"They were not very comfortable with the idea at all," Al Marzooqi admits. "But once they saw the support given to us by the university, and more importantly how motivated we were about the project and how the film's aim was to help others, they were totally behind us."

With the filmmakers being officially the first Emiratis to enter the refugee camps, Al Marzouqi says they were worried about how they would be received by the families and children. They never expected to be treated like family members.

"That was so amazing," says Al Marzooqi. "They were so kind and welcoming. They knew we were coming with the charity for a humanitarian cause so they were so welcoming."

Supported by Her Highness Princess Haya bint Hussein (wife of the UAE Vice President and Dubai ruler, His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum), anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu and former American president Jimmy Carter, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund has been providing free medical care to displaced Palestinians since 1991.

"The video is very important because people need to see visually the good work that volunteers from all over the world are providing for some of the most neglected people in the region," says founder Steve Sosebee.

"A lot of goodwill is being done here and this video exposes a positive effort to others who hopefully will get involved as well in the future."

The chance to screen the film as part of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival caps off what has been a tremendous journey, according to Al Mamaari. "It is really an honour," she says. "When we were making the film we though at the end it would be screened in smaller film competitions or around other universities. To be in this great festival is something that we are so proud off."

Al Marzooqi hopes people walk away from the film inspired to reach out and help others. "This is part of the goal," she says. "For me personally, I want to do more work, make more films perhaps, where I can help more people. I just want to be there if people need help."


Dreams in Their Eyes is showing as part of the Emirates Film Competition on Monday (6.30pm) and Wednesday (1.30pm) at Vox Cinemas, Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi. For more details go to www.adff.ae