x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Environment lesson in just 18 minutes for young people

A filmmaker whose documentary revealed the knowledge gap for young people about green issues has formed a collective to improve their awareness.

DUBAI // Since highlighting just how little teenagers know about the UAE's impact on the environment in a documentary screened late last year, Areeba Hanif has formed a film-making collective aimed at improving their awareness.

The 24-year-old Pakistani's film The UAE's Environmental Issue and Adolescence was screened at the third annual Documentary Voices, a film festival organised by the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority.

The 18-minute film, produced during Ms Hanif's final year studying digital filmmaking at the SAE Institute in Dubai, explored the impact of environmental documentaries on the younger generation.

"I interviewed children and young adults and unfortunately their environmental knowledge was disastrous," she said. "Then I showed them a series of documentaries and assessed their reaction. Mostly it was positive. In fact, some wished they had been forced to watch them at school.

"The overall result was that documentaries did make a significant difference, which was a big deal for me as a filmmaker."

Since the film's screening in November Ms Hanif has joined forces with five other environmental enthusiasts including another filmmaker, a graphic designer and a researcher. They are in the process of raising awareness through online videos.

Dedicated to environmental films from around the world, Documentary Voices opened with the Middle East premiere of Chernobyl: A Natural History. It was directed by Luc Riolon, a French filmmaker. A second made-in-the-UAE project, Ecological foot print, also screened during the event. The animated film from the Al Basma Al Beeiyah Initiative urged residents to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Mahshid Zamani, the founder and managing director of Documentary Voices said there was a pressing demand for more documentaries in the UAE. Ms Hanif agreed.

"The need is more urgent now than ever," she said. "Despite everything our habits as individuals in this society have not really changed. We still pick our cars over the metro, we still use air conditioning instead of opening the window and hardly anyone recycles.

"It's so important to change the attitude of people in Dubai because we have such a young population. The people of Dubai hold the future in their hands so they need to know how to make a difference."

aseaman@thenational.ae