x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Daddy ABC director Hamad Alawar sets sights Oscar-high

Alawar’s comedy is about a father who discovers that baby care is harder than he’d imagined after his wife leaves him in charge for the day.

A handout portrait of Hamad Al Awar, creator of Daddy ABC (Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Film Festival)
A handout portrait of Hamad Al Awar, creator of Daddy ABC (Courtesy: Abu Dhabi Film Festival)

As the Emirati director Hamad Alawar is basking in the plaudits at Abu Dhabi Film Festival for his short animation film Daddy ABC, he’s setting his sights even higher.

Alawar’s comedy is about a father who discovers that baby care is harder than he’d imagined after his wife leaves him in charge for the day. “The film was my first attempt at comedy. I am not a funny person, I don’t tell jokes, but I hope I can make people laugh with this.”

Daddy ABC has already scooped the Best Short Animation award at the California International Shorts Festival and first place in the animation category at the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival.

Alawar was nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Southampton International Film Festival in the UK. It has also received nominations at the Blue Plum Animation Festival and Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.

“I didn’t expect the film to do so well outside the UAE,” says Alawar. “It’s screening in two Oscar-nominating festivals, so there is the potential for it to be nominated for an Oscar – that’s my goal.”

Despite being shown around the world in more than 20 different festivals, this was the first time the film has ever been screened in Abu Dhabi and it’s also the first time Alawar had seen his film with an audience, which he says was a great experience. Alawar confesses that at first, his mother had her doubts about animation.

“In school I got high grades so people thought I would choose to study medicine. But now my mum is pretty proud of the film. She brags about it to her friends,” he says.

Alawar used to work for Dubai Police reconstructing crime scenes, which is a world away from his current life as a PhD student in Yorkshire, England: “My 4-year-old daughter now speaks Arabic – with a Yorkshire accent.”

Alawar is proud to be seen with the pushchair around town and to share childcare duties with his wife. But he admits that as most Emiratis tend to have a maid, they might not encounter the situation described in his film.

“Sometimes, having a maid is a privilege – the ease in life it gives you – but my wife and I both believe in being highly involved in our children’s lives. We have maids in Abu Dhabi sometimes, but not in the UK – and we don’t have them at all with the kids.”

While making Daddy ABC, Alawar was mentored by the seven-time ­Oscar winner Gary Rydstrom, who is currently working on an animated Star Wars film. “He gave me so much advice in those dark days of production when I thought I couldn’t finish it. Even when he had a busy schedule, he always made time for me. I still hope to work with him in the future.”

Alawar is currently working on a project called Light Years Away, which he describes as a sci-fi ­romance comedy.

artslife@thenational.ae