x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Quality of regional films best yet, contest chief says

Competition at film festival shows how much talent there is in the Gulf, says Ali al Jabri.

ABU DHABI // As the first screenings began for the homegrown contributions to the film festival, organisers said the quality was better than ever.

On Friday night the short narrative entries for the Emirates Competition were screened in Marina Mall and yesterday the short documentary entries were shown at the same venue.

Formerly the Emirates Film Competition, this is the first year the contest, which is open to filmmakers in GCC countries, is included under the banner of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Entrants are competing for prizes of between Dh10,000 and Dh35,000 in six categories, including fictional narrative and documentary.

Ali al Jabri, the competition's director, said the quality of the entries this year was better than in previous years.

"A lot has changed since last year," he said. "New generations of filmmakers are emerging all the time, they are graduating from college, they have a better education and what they are learning is reflected in the films they are making.

"Also, the film industry is becoming more established here and it is shown in our competition."

Mr al Jabri, who helped to found the competition in 2001, said there was a notable number of female participants. "It is really surprising that we had 14 female filmmakers this year. Statistically, there are less female filmmakers in the Gulf region so I was surprised to see so many and so many strong heroines."

Hana Alshatari, who made her film Mirage, a comedy, with fellow Emirati Yaser Alneyadi said she believed the male and female combination, although rare, worked well.

"We were able to understand and respect the other person's ideas and share lessons from past experiences," she said. She also praised the competition for encouraging her to continue. "The UAE film industry is just at the beginning and what would make it develop even more are added facilities."

Mr al Jabri said hosting such a competition was vital to showcase Emirati films made in the region to the international audience.

"Of course we have to have this competition," he said. "People are still surprised to see quality films come from the Gulf but we have so much talent here.

"Also it is very important to make sure the filmmakers attend the festival because they meet people and make invaluable connections. This is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss."