x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Reflections on a growing film scene

q&a Nawaf al Janahi is an Emirati film director and actor. His latest film, Mirrors of Silence, was selected by 17 international film festivals and will be screened at The Third Line gallery in Dubai.

The film director Nawaf al Janahi's Mirrors of Silence is at The Third Line in Dubai.
The film director Nawaf al Janahi's Mirrors of Silence is at The Third Line in Dubai.

Nawaf al Janahi is an Emirati film director and actor. His latest film, Mirrors of Silence, was selected by 17 international film festivals and will be screened at The Third Line gallery in Dubai tonight as part of Laila Emaratiya: A Night of Emirati Short Films.

I didn't choose Abu Dhabi in particular and the film doesn't actually show which city it is. I believe this is a universal subject and it could happen anywhere, which is why when I shot the film I tried not to specify the location.

Absolutely. Things have changed here over time. People used to talk to each other more and feel closer to each other. Now, with all these tall buildings around us, they're like huge walls and I believe they keep us apart. I wasn't concerned with offering solutions or digging for reasons why this has happened, but it's today's reality and I wanted to address it.

I started acting when I was seven. My father, Mohammed al Janahi, was an Emirati actor and director and he used to take me with him to the studio. They decided to give me a few roles as "that kid". I enjoyed it and started doing some serious professional work after that.

I knew when I was 14. I enjoyed acting but I thought directing would be a better field to study in, since I already knew a little about it. My father used to direct a lot of radio and TV series.

It was home. I felt that whatever knowledge I had acquired in the US, my country needed it so I should do it here.

It was really difficult when I came back in 1999. I felt like I was the only one studying cinema. But I didn't really care about the fact that it wasn't really available here. I was like, OK, if it's not there, we'll start it. There were no events or festivals, nothing at all. There was no means of communicating with other film people. So I started a website called Emarat Films in 2001 to create that kind of community. Looking back at that time, I think me and my friends did a pretty good job of helping to create that Emirati film scene.

It helps to improve the mentality here and the cinematic culture. We need to have the film festivals because we need to screen these films and to tell people about them. But what we need now is for private production companies to enter the field and to kick the industry forward. The cycle isn't yet well developed in the UAE but it will be in a few years.

Last year, the New York Film Academy opened here in Abu Dhabi and before that there was the Manhattan Film Academy in Dubai, so it completes the whole process. The film schools will produce sound engineers, editors and cinematographers.

I shot a feature length film and I'm working on the post-production. I always try to find that middle ground between artistic and commercial. I wouldn't like to do a purely commercial film though, where you disregard anything that has to do with art or values.

They're equally important. At the end of the day, film critics are part of the audience as well. They're just more knowledgeable in film language. I always bring it back to the fact that the audience are human and it's your job to talk to their souls. If they felt that, we did our job.
The Third Line gallery, Al Quoz, Third Interchange, Sheik Zayed Road, Dubai. Reserve seats on 04 341 1367 or at @email:www.thethirdline.com

kboucher@thenational.ae