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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 August 2018

Young Filmmakers’ Circle returns to Abu Dhabi

Free programme offers screenings, discussions and training to applicants

Young Filmmakers' Circle workshop with director Naji bou Nawar Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival
Young Filmmakers' Circle workshop with director Naji bou Nawar Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival

The Young Filmmakers’ Circle returns to Abu Dhabi this month for the third consecutive year, in partnership with Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation. The programme offers a mix of free public screenings, discussions, and free training, and is open to all UAE residents over the age of 18.

YFC begins with on March 13 at 6pm with a screening of three short films that have a regional link – Amna Al Nowais’ hard-hitting documentary Omnia, which deals with the psychological and physical effects of female circumcision and won the Dubai International Film Festival’s Muhr Emirati Award; Basil Khalil’s Oscar-nominated Ave Maria, which takes a comic look at religious divisions in the West Bank; and Ahmad Saleh’s animation Ayny, in which two boys try to escape the horrors of war through oud music.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the importance of short films in the Arab world, moderated by artist and writer Hind Mezaina, and featuring the filmmaker Al Nowais, educator Greg Unaru and partner of MAD Solutions Abdallah Al Shami.

Perhaps the programme’s biggest draw, however, is the free three-day scriptwriting training programme from March 29 to 31, taking place under the tutelage of Jordanian filmmaker Zaid Abu Hamdan. Hamdan has experience working in the regional and Hollywood film industries, and his short film Baram and Hamza was a hit on the international festival circuit in 2010. He also has extensive TV experience, including regularly working on Iftah Ya Simsim, the Arabic adaptation of the kids’ favourite Sesame Street.

Hamdan has been based in the UAE for two years, dividing his time between here and Hollywood, and he says that even in the short time he has been here he has seen huge changes in the local industry.

“I’ve noticed a lot of development in the media industry as a whole, and the film industry in particular since I arrived,” he says. “Even the limitations and self-censorship for young Emiratis has got less intense. I think when you’re a country that’s just beginning to tell stories there’s bound to be a bit of reservation at first. There was initially a bit of stigma about revealing stuff, especially personal stuff, but that’s lifting. I’ve helped a few Emirati filmmakers to make films that are travelling round festivals internationally now and that’s great.”

Training the next generation is a key part of Hamdan’s work and he says he regularly runs training sessions with Emirati youngsters and UAE residents, although this will be the first time he is involved with YFC.

He tells us what students can expect from the course. “Participants will write a short script in three days,” he says. “We’re shortlisting probably about 10 filmmakers who have written a script before and over the course of three days I will walk them through the process of writing a script and getting it all down on paper.”

Hamdan notes that participants won’t actually be making the films during the course, although he hopes to help his students write scripts of a high enough quality to potentially be taken on by third party production companies. “There’s also a winner’s prize of a professional internship, so that could maybe lead to a way of making the film too.”

Interested parties for either the screening or the training course should visit http://www.abudhabifestival.aewww.abudhabifestival.ae. Access to the screening is free, though online reservation is required. Those who wish to apply for the training should apply online, submitting at least one complete script, correctly formatted, in English or Arabic, two ideas for a short film, and be available for the duration of the course schedule listed on the site. Closing date for applications is March 6.

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