x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Reporter's notebook: Different worlds come together for DIFF 2012

What life was like before the pictures were decent, keeping a positive frame of mind, and an inspirational overnight success.

Freida Pinto walks the red carpet at DIFF. The actress is a judge for the festival's Muhr Emirati section. Satish Kumar / The National
Freida Pinto walks the red carpet at DIFF. The actress is a judge for the festival's Muhr Emirati section. Satish Kumar / The National

Those who have grown up with satellite TV, remotes, a crystal-clear picture and hundreds of channels will find Ahmed Zain's short drama Safia real eye-opener.

The Muhr Emirati competition entry looks back to the Emirates in the 1980s, when there was little choice, the TV signal came via a rooftop aerial and the picture quality was so poor that shows often looked like they had been shot in a snowstorm.

"The pictures weren't clear and we had a very hard time to see anything on the TV," says Zain, 38, an electromechanical engineer from Abu Dhabi. "There would be one guy holding the aerial on the roof and one guy in front of the TV.

"The guy downstairs would shout to the other guy: 'It's clear - no, go to the right, no, go to the left,' until the channel came clear. Sometimes you missed the movie or the show. You could not see it."

While Zain is keen to show younger people what TV was like before the satellite era, he adds: "For sure I don't want to go back to those days. I'm happy with TV like it is now."

Muna Al Ali is a firm believer in having a positive outlook - she goes as far as saying it is the key to happiness.

Al Ali, an artist from Sharjah, explores the theory in her short experimental film Durbeen, another Muhr Emirati contender. The title means "binoculars".

"The message is that life is the same for everyone. What makes the difference is our view of the situation and our reaction to things that happen," she says.

"For example, if something happens and you see it in a negative way, it will make you desperate and you will think that everything is bad in life. But if you see it in a positive way then you will be happy."

Safi and Durbeen will be screened along with other Muhr Emirati entries at 12.30pm tomorrow.

If the aspiring filmmakers competing in the Muhr Emirati section need any proof that it is possible to become an overnight success in the movie business, they need look no further than one of the judges.

Casting her eyes over their work will be the Indian actress Freida Pinto, who was propelled to stardom by her debut role as Latika in Slumdog Millionaire.

The DIFF organisers approached her because her appeal spanned East and West - and to their delight she agreed to take part.