x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Emirati moviemakers in the spotlight

Some 21 Emirati-made films are competing in the festival's Gulf Competition.

Abdullah al Kaabi’s film The Philosopher is screening today at the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai.
Abdullah al Kaabi’s film The Philosopher is screening today at the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai.

DUBAI // As the fourth instalment of the Gulf Film Festival enters its third day, the number of Emirati projects in the lineup is remarkable.

Some 21 Emirati-made films are competing in the festival's Gulf Competition, and 13 are entered in the Student Competition. Nine others will be screened in the out-of-competition Intersections and Lights segments.

Today, Abdullah al Kaabi's 2010 UAE/French-produced short film The Philosopher will be screened, as will Foresight, directed by Ahmed Zain and Naser al Yaqoobi, at Grand Cinemas, Dubai Festival City.

Mr al Kaabi's The Philosopher, starring Jean Reno and filmed in Paris, was the most expensive short film shot in Europe last year, coming in at a cost of Dh1 million. The funding came from the production house Oursin Films, whose founder, Cyril Deleye, has worked with directors including Luc Besson and Roman Polanksi.

Mr al Kaabi and Mr Deleye's next project is a feature-length movie called Culture Shock, also starring Reno and the French actress Virginie Ledoyen, who appeared with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach. The comedy explores the story of a woman who follows an Emirati to the UAE thinking he is wealthy.

"I want to show we can entertain while also fighting stereotypes that we are just about money and oil," said Mr al Kaabi.

Other A-list Hollywood stars will also make an appearance in the film, which will be shot by the end of the year in France and the UAE, but names remain top-secret.

"I will also have local talent because I want to have a passionate actor or actress who can go on to Hollywood or where they like," he said.

"This is the first time I am investing this much support in a director," said Mr Deleye.

"A long time ago, I was offered a chance, and now it's time to give back. I am sure Abdullah will do the same in supporting UAE talent."

The first-time director Hassan Kiyany hopes his short film Telephoni receives similar acclaim. Shot completely using an iPhone 4, the film tells the story of a young boy who uncovers a secret while using his phone for the first time.

"I am so happy that my film was chosen in competition, and I have applied for other festivals, too," said Mr Kiyani. "Cinema is the only place where culture can integrate, but we still have a way to go."

Mr Kiyani wants to develop a database of filmmakers and actors in the UAE and is planning to launch a website on which filmmakers can upload their work.

The Philosopher: From today at 6:15pm at Grand Festival Cinema 7

Foresight: From today at 6:30pm at Grand Festival Cinema 8

Telephoni: From Tuesday at 6:15pm at Grand Festival Cinema 7

melshoush@thenational.ae