x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Locally made shorts examine Emirati issues

Titles in the Muhr Emirati category cross a spectrum of genres and touch on some controversial subjects.

Amal Al Agroobi’s documentary Half Emirati looks at how Emiratis with non-Emirati mothers are socially accepted. Ravindranath K / The National
Amal Al Agroobi’s documentary Half Emirati looks at how Emiratis with non-Emirati mothers are socially accepted. Ravindranath K / The National

Titles in the Muhr Emirati category cross a spectrum of genres and touch on some controversial subjects.

If you've been to DIFF before, you'll know that the screenings with the longest standby queues are the locally made films competing in the Muhr Emirati category.

This year there are 10 Emirati short films in the section, a few less than last year, but ones that the festival's artistic director, Masoud Amralla Al Ali, thinks best reflect the country. "We wanted it to be compact, and these 10 films we thought represented Emirati diversity," he says. "There are so many genres in this section."

Among the line-up are six world premieres, including several thought-provoking looks at society. Mansoor Al Dhaheri's Mirage.net is a drama about a group of men who abuse social networks at the expense of women, while The Goat's Head focuses on the struggle of women to find a voice in a largely male-dominated society.

Perhaps the most interesting topic covered in the line-up is Amal Al Agroobi's documentary Half Emirati, exploring the lives of Emirati nationals whose mothers are not Emiratis.

"We basically look at how they're accepted socially and whether they're accepted socially," says Al Agroobi, who is half Syrian. "It's actually a big part of a deep-rooted problem. This issue is really huge but I could only really tackle a few things in a short film."

The film highlights such issues as how school bullying of half-Emirati children can have long-lasting psychological effects, and that considerations such as appearance often mean they're labelled as not being Emirati.

Underlining the problem, Al Agroobi claims that several people she was going to interview pulled out at the last minute. "They said they were ashamed and didn't want people to find out because they might be treated differently at work."

Despite bringing up such issues, the film does attempt to provide a positive outcome. "One of the characters says that in the end being 'half' means we're sort of like an ambassador because we understand a different culture, can communicate and really contribute to Emirati society."

Al Agroobi says she's not sure how people will respond to the film, and that it provoked anger and even tears from friends to whom she's shown it already.

 

Muhr Emirati 1 screens on Monday at 9pm and December 12 at 12.30pm, at Mall of the Emirates; Muhr Emirati 2 screens December 12 at 3.30pm and on December 15 at 9.15pm. Visit www.dubailfilmfestival.com for details

aritman@thenational.ae