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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

The Children's International Film Festival will have an expanded format in its second year, and more than 100 schools will participate.
A scene from a short film entitled “Speechless” made by pupils at Our Own High School, Al Warqa, Dubai. Courtesy Children’s International Film Festival
A scene from a short film entitled “Speechless” made by pupils at Our Own High School, Al Warqa, Dubai. Courtesy Children’s International Film Festival

DUBAI // Children are thinking up fantasy and mystery plots and hoping to showcase their moviemaking talent at a film festival that aims to become a permanent event for young artists with a story to tell.

The number of schools that will participate in the Children’s International Film Festival in April and May next year has risen to more than 100 from the 44 that participated in the inaugural event this year.

Organisers have begun approaching schools across the Emirates with details of the 2015 competition for short films that are produced, directed and scripted by children.

“The last competition inspired a lot of schools and some children even enrolled in filmmaking courses during the summer vacation,” said Radha Hari, whose son studies at Our Own High School, Al Warqa, Dubai.

“Their dreams were different before the competition. Some wanted to be engineers, and now they are interested in studying film technology. Making a film opened up a whole new world for them. It gave them an insight into filmmaking. Kids here in the UAE go to the malls, see many movies, but with this competition they realised they could make a career out of films.”

Our Own High School bagged the prize for best film, the audience award for the best film and the best editor award in this year’s competition.

Prize-winning films were also screened before parents and pupils during the recent school annual day, a day of recognition for academic achievement.

Children in other schools are also gearing up for next year’s competition.

“I’m thinking of a fantasy story, but rooted in reality,” said Payal, of Indian High School in Oud Metha.

“I don’t want to talk too much about it because this year so many more students know about it so there will be tougher competition. Still, it’s a good challenge.”

The competition was thought up by Dubai filmmaker Deepak Jain, who was hoping to fill a creative gap.

Winning short films from this year’s competition will be shown at six children’s film festivals in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“The film content and media kids are exposed to is often not good for them, it does not help them think or challenge them,” Mr Jain said.

“So we wanted to create a competitive platform for kids in the UAE since we found there was hardly any national-level competition for children. And we found so much enthusiasm, and humongous, awesome talent in the country that can be nurtured.

“There were diverse topics with some films on fantasy and magic on one hand and, on the other side of the spectrum, was loss and death or a child coping or conquering a disease.”

This year’s nine-day festival attracted more than 80 films, with 17 awards being presented and 15,000 people in attendance.

The new festival will have six additional award categories, including best actor, best animation and best stop-motion film.

Because of “popular demand we will award the best actor”, Mr Jain said. “Both students and parents have asked that the actors should also be rewarded for their efforts.”

For the next round, schools can submit more than one film per institution.

Organisers are also reaching out through various ministries to public schools this year, hoping to attract Emirati entrants.

The age limit for contestants is 18, the short films must be 15 minutes or shorter and can be submitted in any language, as long as they have English subtitles.

Screenings will take place in Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah in April and May next year.

The festival also has an international film section that received children’s films in 36 languages, ranging from German, French and Latvian to Japanese and Tagalog.

For more information on the competition, contact www.ciff.ae.

rtalwar@thenational.ae