x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Film industry offers more opportunities to women

A young female Emirati's documentary, Nations and Tribes, won the Student Documentary Short trophy and a Dh10,000 prize.

Maysoon al Ali wants to use the recognition she received at last month's Gulf Film Festival to put the spotlight on female film-makers.
Maysoon al Ali wants to use the recognition she received at last month's Gulf Film Festival to put the spotlight on female film-makers.

DUBAI // Maysoon al Ali wants to use the recognition she received at last month's Gulf Film Festival to put the spotlight on female film-makers.

The young Emirati's documentary, Nations and Tribes, won the Student Documentary Short trophy and a Dh10,000 prize. The film explores the challenges and benefits of social and religious integration in the UAE.

Being an Arab woman in the business, she says, is no longer an obstacle.

"Gender is not a problem any more," Ms al Ali said. "I think ladies in the Arab world - especially the Gulf - have more chances than before and sometimes more than guys.

"Personally, I didn't have serious problems except for spending time getting permissions."

Once she graduates this summer, she hopes to get a job working for a documentary TV channel and build the skills needed to start a company.

And in a sign of the times, women played a prominent role in all three UAE co-productions that were shown in Toronto at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, which ended on Sunday.

Egypt's Marianne Khoury co-directed Zelal, Dubai's Soniya Kirpalani directed Love Arranged and Holland's Kim Timmermans was the assistant producer of This is My Picture When I Was Dead, which also employed female line producers, researchers and production assistants.

The three films had also featured at the Dubai International Film Festival and the Gulf Film Festival (GFF).

The Abu Dhabi director Ahmed Zain said female film-makers have played a significant role in the development of the local film industry.

"We have seen many great directors in the past few years who are women - Nujoom Al Ghanem, Manal Bin Amro, Nayla Al Khaja and so many others," Mr Zain said. "They work hard to make important films."

Hassan Kiyani, a film-maker from Dubai, said most of his professional work has been with female Emirati directors, including Manal Bin Amro.

His short mystery film, Telephoni, shot completely on the iPhone 4, was also featured at the GFF.

"I saw movies from the student documentary category at GFF and there's real talent coming from the colleges," Mr Kiyani said.

He believes the lack of restrictions in the UAE allow for more of a balance between men and women.

"We see it as a man and woman completing each other," he said. "We have ladies who are pilots, ministers and in consulates outside the UAE. Females have plenty of opportunities because they hold various talents."

melshoush@thenational.ae