x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Verdict’s in for judicial department’s film career

The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has been creating and broadcasting short adverts to help members of the public understand the law.

A screen shot taken from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department video about drugs. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Judicial Department
A screen shot taken from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department video about drugs. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Judicial Department

The mother is on her death bed, and her only request is that her beloved son stay by her side. But he leaves her to follow his wife, and misses the last phone call his mother makes before she dies.

It is a scene from a short film by the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, one that many people can relate to – and one that has brought tears to many viewers’ eyes.

The department has been making the short films for four years to get across its legal and social messages. They are shown on primetime TV, particularly during Ramadan, and at cinemas before films.

“This is the type of shock that affects viewers and sticks the message in their minds,” said Jaafar Al Aidarous, the man behind the films.

“The goal is to deliver a message to society through films that tackle reality in drama, a direct method that all age groups understand.”

The advertisements have high production values and feature renowned actors such as Sief Al Ghanem, Fatima Al Houssani and Khaled Ameen.

According to the department’s research, the shorts are more influential than lectures or leaflets.

About 20 films have been produced since 2009, covering issues including perjury, divorce, drugs in school, social media and, as in the example, dishonouring parents.

The judicial department sees its remit as covering not just legal issues, but some social ones, too.

So popular have the films proved that other government departments, such as the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, have expressed an interest in producing their own, but the judicial department is one step ahead.

It is planning to make a 20-episode television series based on major real-life court cases that it hopes to broadcast across the Mena region.

It has assigned a Hollywood-based company to consult on the project. Casting will start in November and shooting is expected to begin in February next year.

Five of the department’s short films shown last Ramadan were inspired by cases heard in court.

A film on perjury followed a case in which two passers-by were asked by a stranger to testify that she had not remarried. The passers-by did not know she was lying and agreed to do as she had requested.

Another film, inspired by two real-life cases in which maids were tortured to death by their employers, shows employers mistreating their maids, who later take revenge on their employers’ children. In the film, the employer wakes up realising she has been having a nightmare and decides to start treating her maid better.

Mr Al Aidarous said maid abuse was a huge topic that could not be fully explored in a 60-second film.

“So we focused on the specific point that when you mistreat a person it will affect their service,” he said. “The main message was to treat people as you like to be treated. We are not saying that maid abuse is a trend in UAE society, we just wanted to remind the public.”

Some people had criticised the department for giving a negative picture of the UAE, but he said this was not the intention.

“When we feature a problem in the films it does not mean that it is a trend and that it represents the entire UAE society,” he said.

“In general, the films leave a big impression on the audience. We have received a lot of feedback and viewer rates are increasing every year.”

hdajani@thenational.ae