x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Director's Dubai masterclass gives 'shelter' to filmmakers

Filmmakers came from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, the US and Sudan to attend the workshop.

DUBAI // A cinematic masterclass held by a renowned Iranian director in Dubai this week provided a safe haven for filmmakers from troubledcountries across the region.

Around 40 enthusiasts from such nations as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Sudan - as well as the US - attended Abbas Kiarostami's 10-day course, which was funded by the Gulf Film Festival and organised by the Dubai-based Documentary Voices. They were tasked with creating short movies based on the theme of loneliness.

"In this workshop, we managed to create a shelter for those coming from troubled nations," said Kiarostami. "Once the filmmakers came into the class, they chose art and cinema. We did not discuss politics and none of the pain was reflected in their films."

Mahshid Zamani, the managing director of Documentary Voices, a social awareness initiative, said the workshop was a first for the UAE.

"Mr Kiarostami has often been voted among the most influential filmmakers of all time and not all of them can teach like him," she said. "His style is unique and poetic and he is passionate about passing on his knowledge."

The director, 70, has conducted many workshops before, but this was his first in the GCC.

"I am happy I accepted because these are among the best filmmakers I have worked with. I'm not judging this through their films only, but through their enthusiasm," Kiarostami said. "Films that have come out of this region are important because they concentrate on content not budget, and that is how I work."

Saleh Nass, who travelled from Bahrain to attend the workshop, described the knowledge he picked up as "liberating".

"Kiarostami has helped us overcome our fears in that we do not need to worry about budget, only the details of the story," he said. "I truly admire his films, which speak for themselves."

Another filmmaker who attended, Anyana Sundararajan, said the class fell silent the first time the director entered the room.

"Abbas Kiarostami is a huge inspiration because, through his films, he reveals new possibilities in filmmaking and storytelling," Ms Sundararajan said. "He showed me the importance of the visuals rather than just the conversation."

Kiarostami, a former winner of the Prix Roberto Rossellini Award at the Cannes Film Festival, has worked in the industry since the 1960s and most recently directed Juliette Binoche to a Best Actress win at Cannes for 2010's Certified Copy.

The film, about a novelist who meets a woman while promoting his book in France, was shot in Italy.

"I never really considered filming outside my country and used to focus all my energy in Iran," Kiarostami said. "If you are not deeply rooted in your country first, you will never fully branch out."

melshoush@thenational.ae