x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

One man provides living archive for Emirati director

Project investigates the enduring life of RAK stonecutter

DUBAI // An Emirati filmmaker has told how a desire to record living history prompted him to make a film about an elderly stonecutter that is being screened in the Gulf Film Festival's documentary competition section.

Life of Stone, one of a record 45 films by Emiratis to be shown at the festival, tells how the stonecutter spent 60 years in the mountains of Ras al Khaimah hacking out rocks to be used as gravestones.

"I know a lot of people might consider older people a cliche because sometimes they tend to talk about the same things - how it used to be, how it is now," said Moath bin Hafez.

"But I think some specific characters should be captured because you don't know how long they're going to be around, so if you have a visual record of them I think it's kind of like you're archiving history."

Bin Hafez found out about the subject of his film from a newspaper article. "I thought it would be interesting to visit the man and see what he was up to. He's been doing this since he was 10 years old and hasn't stopped doing it, and now he's 70. His family lived in the mountains and their main job was to cut the stones they use in graveyards where they put the name of the person who's died.

"He's convinced there is nothing else he could do. He hasn't been able to find anyone who can help him and he's convinced he's the only person who can do this job now."

Bin Hafez welcomed a tightening up of standards at the festival that he said had helped to improve the quality of the films screened.

"It's not just us showing each other our films, people are going to take time off from their schedules to visit the festival so the films cannot be small inside jokes between people or just experimenting, they have to be of a certain quality so people can appreciate them."

He said the festival provided Gulf filmmakers with a great chance to showcase their work.

"If you submit a film from anywhere in the Gulf the festival pays for your flight and your stay in the hotel, and I think this is an amazing opportunity because if you really have what it takes then you can easily come and the festival supports you."

Life of Stone will be screened twice - tomorrow and on Monday.

csimpson@thenational.ae