x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Reporter's notebook: When the lack of a language is no barrier

Editing a film in Arabic when you don't speak the language, uncovering a new conduit for violence, and an eye on Yemen.

Darine El Khatib, Youssef El Deeb and Carol Ho from Love's Improvisations. Satish Kumar / The National
Darine El Khatib, Youssef El Deeb and Carol Ho from Love's Improvisations. Satish Kumar / The National

Editing a feature film that is in Arabic when you don't speak the language may seem an impossible task, but one visitor to DIFF has just done that.

The Los Angeles-based Carol Ho, 33, was meant to receive a translation of the script of Love's Improvisations, but it was never sent.

"I don't speak Arabic at all," she said. "My senses became very acute to the emotions of the characters. A lot of the time I would be guessing what they are trying to say or convey, so the whole experience was very sensory. I found myself putting myself in their shoes, so that really helped with my rhythm of editing. It was more about living in the film. I enjoyed the process of guessing. I think the unknown is so powerful."

The film is set in a Beirut apartment but was shot in Dubai. It was directed by Youssef El Deeb, the 58, founder of the Dubai-based food channel Fatafeat, and the station manager Darine El Khatib is the lead actress.

Fatafeat and its parent company, Takhayal Entertainment, have just been bought by the US media giant Discovery.

The dark side of the internet is explored in Sarab.net (Mirage.net), a hard-hitting drama by Mansoor Al Dhaheri that is having its world premiere at DIFF.

"The film tackles a sensitive issue in our society, not just in the UAE but in other Islamic countries," says Al Dhaheri, 37, from Abu Dhabi. "There are marriage websites that women go to hoping to meet their dream man.

"They're trying to escape from the traditional wedding, so they go to these websites and start chatting to guys.

"Some criminals use these websites. They send a picture of some good-looking guy and say it's them. Some of these girls fall for it and the guys ask them to meet them for just a few minutes and the girls end up being raped."

Al Dhaheri said the story told in the film was based on a true case that he heard about from a policeman friend.

"When they asked the girl why she didn't seek help from her family, her father or brother or anyone, she said she was afraid they would kill her because she talked to some guy she didn't know."

Sarab.net is one of 10 films competing for the Muhr Emirati award.

Say the words "film" and "Yemen" to most people and they'll immediately think of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, last year's romantic hit starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.

The Yemeni filmmaker Khadija Al Salami said she enjoyed the movie but had one reservation. The scenes that were supposedly set in Yemen were actually shot in Morocco. She said: "I would have loved to have seen it filmed in Yemen because Yemen has beautiful landscapes. It's amazing."

Al Salami's film Al Sarkha (The Scream) is one of the entries in the documentary section of the Muhr Arab Awards.