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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

It’s all about the Emirati escapades in Fadel Al Mheiri’s Abood Kandaishan

In the comedy the protagonist tries to use wasta to avoid a transfer out of the rural government control room has has worked in for 13 years to the big city of Abu Dhabi.
Abood Kandaishan, screening at the Dubai International Film Festival, is Emirati director Fadel Al Mheiri’s first feature film. Courtesy: Tent Pictures Productions
Abood Kandaishan, screening at the Dubai International Film Festival, is Emirati director Fadel Al Mheiri’s first feature film. Courtesy: Tent Pictures Productions

Fadel Al Mheiri set out to show a different side of his country in his first feature film, Abood Kandaishan, which follows the comedic capers of its simple-minded protaganist over the course of a weekend as he tries to pull strings to stop his imminent job transfer.

“We don’t have a mirror to show what’s going on in our culture,” says the Emirati filmmaker. “In the media, it’s all about camels, falcons and the desert. But there’s more to us than that. I tried to make this story as simple as possible, so an international audience can understand it as well. With sprinkles of entertainment.”

In the film Kandaishan, who has worked in a control room for the same government company for last 13 years, finds out he is being transferred from the remote Hmeem in the Western Region to the big city lights of Abu Dhabi.

Worried the move will mean a drop in salary, he turns to ‘wasta’ (connections) in an attempt to stay put. He’s helped along the way by his friend Sharabatoh, until an accident puts paid to their friendship. The film also highlights the relationship between Kandaishan, who is an orphan, and his fiery Punjabi caretaker, as well as a romance with his neighbour’s daughter,

“We are reflecting our neighbourhood escapades – what life is really like in our homes,” adds Al Mheiri. “I want people to have a glimpse of who we are as humans first, before who we are as Emiratis.”

The 35-year-old, who runs the production company he set up last year from the comfort of an office at Abu Dhabi’s TwoFour54, started out making films at 14 from a small tent outside his childhood home.

“I used to make short films from my tent, with the most minimal budget. Later in life, I couldn’t stand my boring government job in an oil company, so I quit to work full-time as a filmmaker.”

Al Mheiri has been keen to shed light on the lives of real people living in the Emirates through the six short films he’s made since 2001. In 2005 he produced Under Construction, a documentary about a construction worker waiting to get paid.

When not making films, Al Mheiri is busy mastering a different skill: writing historical books.

“I am publishing my first book, Kingdom of Peacocks - Mists of Time, about the Portuguese invasion in the Arabian Gulf in the early 1500s. It was a screenplay that I pitched for the first Abu Dhabi film festival in 2008, and after going through script courses in Hollywood and with Torino Film Lab, I thought to share my story with the general audience rather than keep the script sitting in my laptop. So I transformed it into a book, which is part of a trilogy that I dream to make into a film one day.”

One of the two DIFF screenings of Al Mheiri’s film is on Saturday, December 13 at the free, open-air venue at The Beach, playing to one of the biggest audiences for an Emirati film showing at the festival.

“I’m really pleased it’s being shown on The Beach. We Al Mheiris are a tribe from the sea. Twenty years ago, when I showed my first amateur film to my neighbours from my tent, it was a really great feeling. Now, I’ll be showing it to 1,000 people, and it’s a dream come true.”

*Abood Kandaishan is being screened in Arabic with English subtitles, at 6.30pm on Thursday December 11 at Mall of the Emirates 12, and on Saturday December 13 at 7.30pm during a free open-air film screening at The Beach opposite JBR.