x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Sharjah filmmaker invited to the St Petersburg Student Film Festival

With the selection of her documentary Rabbit Hole for the St Petersburg Student Film Festival, Fatima Musharbek talks about how she came to make the movie.

Fatima Musharbek was the only Arab filmmaker invited to the St Petersburg Film Festival.
Fatima Musharbek was the only Arab filmmaker invited to the St Petersburg Film Festival.

The "illusionary world of media" is luring a young generation of Arabs away from their own cultural traditions with its false ideals of perfection and consumerism, according to the Emirati filmmaker Fatima Musharbek.

The 22-year-old student from Sharjah was the only Arab chosen to compete in the international documentary competition during the X Open St Petersburg Student Film Festival. Her 22-minute piece Rabbit Hole, which screens tomorrow, explores the effects of media on young Arabs and promises to surprise viewers.

Many young adults, she found, were copying the attitudes and dress sense of celebrities, creating confusion over their own identity. She also touched on issues, including the negative effects of glossy magazine covers on young women.

"Rabbit Hole tackles three topics: disturbed identity, illusionary perfection and consumerism and the role of mass media in all of this," says Musharbek. "The topic of my film shows the problems of our generation on a global scale, and it shows a different image of Arabs than what many people overseas see."

As a student of Sharjah Women's College (SWC), she came up with the idea for the project during an assignment for one of her applied communications classes. A team was formed with the SWC media studies faculty member and filmmaker Shahin Yazdani as producer. On the ground, Musharbek encountered a few obstacles.

"It was hard for some people to communicate their opinions. It was also hard to shoot in some places like shopping malls and schools because they required a permit," says Musharbek. However, despite the difficulties, she says feedback has been generally positive, and the film was shown in the student documentary category at last year's Gulf Film Festival in Dubai.

"The name Rabbit Hole was suggested to me, and inspired by the concept from Alice in Wonderland, where Alice was lost in an illusionary world," says Musharbek. "If you look at our generation, you could say that we are Alice, lost in the illusionary world of the media.

"I have always been concerned about the negative influence that mass media can have on Emirati youth. I think the media plays a big role in telling us how we should behave, think, dress and talk. I think this shows how they are caught between their own culture and mainstream western cultures."

While in St Petersburg, Musharbek hopes to broaden her world view. "I'm very excited about the whole experience and curious to find out what filmmakers from other countries have to offer in this festival," she says.

The young filmmaker has already started her next project, which is about love in different cultures.

"I want to use this documentary to show different peoples' perspectives, stories and feelings about love," she says. "I chose this topic because it seems like it has not really been explored here in UAE."

The low-budget project will be funded by Musharbek with supervisors/producers Yazdani and Soheila Riahi.

"I hope I can break some stereotypes about Arab and Emirati women, and show what we can accomplish," she said. "I feel lucky we have many rising UAE talents in the film industry, and I'd be lucky to work with some of our best like Nawaf Al Janahi, Ali Mostafa and Khalid Al Mahmood."