x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Female Emirati director scoops short film prize

A 19-year-old from Abu Dhabi takes home the Arab Film Studio's Dh50,000 development deal with Image Nation.

The prize-winner Fatima Al Dhaheri. Sammy Dallal / The National
The prize-winner Fatima Al Dhaheri. Sammy Dallal / The National

A young Abu Dhabi filmmaker scooped the major prize in the inaugural Arab Film Studio short film competition.

Announced last week at a gala ceremony at the Yas Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island, Fatima Al Dhaheri won the best film award for her short film Something Called Fear.

The 19-year-old beat stiff competition from five other finalists to receive a Dh50,000 development deal with Image Nation, the production company behind this year's Oscar winner The Help. (Image Nation is owned by Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also publishes The National.)

Al Dhaheri, currently a trainee at twofour54, described her triumph as "unbelievable".

"It's something really that is very hard to describe," she says. "This film was shot at such a low budget and I needed the help of so many volunteers and so many people supported me."

Something Called Fear focuses on the high school student Adam and his struggles with anthropophobia - a fear of people.

Beginning with his talk in front of his psychology class, the film retraces, through a series of flashbacks, his struggles with the phobia and its effect on his life.

Al Dhaheri, who has already made a few short films, began writing the script in January. "It was definitely a challenging experience," she says. "The script became completely different in the end. It was lots of hard work."

Regarding the film deal, Al Dhaheri says she plans to find the right project. "I have so many ideas in my head," she says. "I think we have to wait and see which one will be the best."

Launched shortly after last year's Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Arab Film Studio short film competition - a partnership between Image Nation Abu Dhabi and twofour54 tadreeb - is one of several initiatives aimed at finding and fostering local filmmaking talent.

Speaking at the award ceremony, the Image Nation CEO Michael Garin says he was "blown away" by the response to the competition, promising the award will return next year.

"We look forward to opening the competition up across the region in 2013, and seeing the immense talent the region has to offer," he says. "We will be announcing more details about the Arab Film Studio 2013 programme shortly, so stay tuned."