Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

Meet the woman bringing a new cinema experience to Al Ain

Bakhita Abdulla, the woman behind Al Ain Cinema Community, wanted to bring world cinema to her city

Bakhita Abdulla started Al Ain Community Cinema for film buffs. Courtesy Bakhita Abdulla
Bakhita Abdulla started Al Ain Community Cinema for film buffs. Courtesy Bakhita Abdulla

Bakhita Abdulla didn’t know if Al Ain would be interested in World Cinema, but she knew there had to be a place for like-minded people who love to watch movies other than Hollywood blockbusters.

Frustrated at having to travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi to watch foreign and award-­winning films, the university graduate decided to curate a programme of movies to be screened in her own city. Inspired by Cinema Space in Abu Dhabi, as well as Cinema Akil in Dubai, Abdulla, after reaching out to several venues, got a positive response from Zayed Central Library, which houses an auditorium.

And that’s how Al Ain Community Cinema started. It brings a series of free film screenings to the city every fortnight.

Abdulla chose the name because she wanted to be seen as just that, a community of film lovers, coming together to share their passion.

The first movie to be screened was 2004 Japanese film Nobody Knows by award-winning director Hirokazu Kore-eda. “There were 50 or 60 people at that screening,” she says, “and they loved it.” The second event, a screening of Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 dystopian epic Children of Men, attracted more people.

Abdulla has now curated a full programme of films that will be shown until the end of the year. “I want it to be consistent. I want it to last,” she says. Abdulla says the independent films being screened give cinemagoers other options.

“The United Arab Emirates University here in Al Ain has a film programme, but there aren’t any public spaces that screen films, where the students can go and watch the films that could enhance and inform their education.” She argues that while streaming services give people more options, the experience of watching a film with others in a cinema setting still has its merits.

“To sit somewhere dark and watch something with complete strangers, and be able to experience emotions they are feeling at the same time you are, that’s powerful and significant.”

To quote the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come,” and more people have been going to see the films. The Al Ain Community Cinema has six films scheduled to be screened until the end of the year, starting with Elia ­Suleiman’s The Time that Remains on Saturday, October 26, and ending with the Icelandic film Rams on Saturday, December 21.

All screenings will be held at Zayed Central Library at 6pm and all are free to attend

Updated: October 21, 2019 08:44 PM

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