x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Academy showcases students' movie premieres to public

Some of the emirate's budding young filmmakers have had their first taste of screening their work before a live audience.

ABU DHABI // Some of the emirate's budding young filmmakers have had their first taste of screening their work before a live audience. On Thursday night, 18 students at the New York Film Academy in the capital sat back as nearly 100 people, including fellow students, their parents and family members, as well as academy staff and directors, watched their short films at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage auditorium.

It was the first such screening since the academy opened in September. Before the event got under way, Salem Habbous, a first-year student at the academy from Lebanon, said he was worried about how the audience would react to his film, Uninvited, which delves into the world of antidepressants and their effects on the human mind. "I am a little nervous because each screen has different settings," said Mr Habbous, 27. "The lighting in the movies may be a bit too light or dark. I know a lot of people are nerve-wracked. I am crossing my fingers and hoping for the best."

After it was shown Mr Habbous relaxed, and said he felt more confident in his filmmaking ability. His goal is to eventually open a film production company. Karim Belkacemi, 18, attended the screening with his father Djoudi, who is a film producer. After graduating from the two-year programme he plans to work with his father, who joked "but only if he is any good". After watching his son's film The Dealers, Mr Belkacemi, who is paying about US$17,000 (Dh62,300) per term for his son's tuition, said it was hard to believe students could produce such quality films after studying for just two months.

"It is definitely worth the money as this is an investment in my son's future," he said. "I am already preparing scripts for him to produce." Michael Unger, chair of the filmmaking programme, has taught film students in Asia, Europe and the US. He said he found the UAE students to be "very serious about the programme". "This is a new programme but wherever I have travelled to, the issues are the same regardless of the country I am posted in," he said.

"These include struggling with pressure, time, money, but also the human story. "People are always concerned about love, jealousy, death, friendship. These are the human issues that make this a great experience." ealghalib@thenational.ae