Sat Nov 30,2013

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) today revealed its lineup of short films for the Muhr Emirati prize at this year’s landmark tenth edition – a bumper crop of the freshest local films that will once again put UAE society under the lens.

The programme grew by 50% this year, reflecting a significant increase in submissions from strong first-time filmmakers, explained DIFF Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali.

He continued: “This year’s Muhr Emirati field demonstrates growing confidence and skill in our local artists. With more training facilities and funding opportunities available, a genuine cinema community has grown in the UAE, and with it the film industry will continue to make steady progression.”

“Since DIFF’s inception we have consistently cultivated local talent and become established as an important launching pad for new films. We are proud that at our tenth edition we can present the fruits of those efforts in our most competitive Muhr Emirati field to date.”

The Dubai Culture and Arts Authority’s campaign, ‘Soul of Dubai,’ will showcase three short films in the Muhr Emirati category. The campaign commissioned three Emirati filmmakers to showcase the dynamic growth of the city as well as its cultural diversity, unique identity and heritage.

The Emirati Muhr line up, comprised of 15 films set to have their world premieres, includes Nayla Al Khaja’s The Neighbour within its ‘Soul of Dubai’ programme, in which a young woman moves to Dubai for a new job and a fresh start, leaving behind a tragedy that has scarred her for life. She finds herself feeling lonely until she receives a visit from her neighbor, an old Emirati woman who doesn’t understand a word she says.
Don’t Judge a Subject by its Photograph is another ‘Soul of Dubai’ entrant, by Ali Mostafa, whose feature City of Life was the 2009 Arabian Nights Gala. The short film follows Maha, a gallerist in Dubai who tries to convince a famous art critic that the UAE arts scene is alive and buzzing.

Director Khalid Ali contributed the touching Al Lailah for ‘Soul of Dubai,’ which centers on the dreams of an Emirati family preparing for Hag Alilah, despite the hardships they face in this dynamic, exciting city. 

All of the films tackle a range of social questions and issues; 13:37, by Eisa Al Sabousi, is a psychological drama set in the near future, and highlights the struggles of Mariam, a young wife and mother. As her arguments with her husband Mayed continue, she soon discovers a deeper reason behind her marital woes.     

In Abdullah Aljunaibi and Humaid Alawadi’s Bahar, a man wakes up on the beach and begins a search for his missing son, whilst Sunset State, by Mustafa Abbas, explores the fantasies, dreams and memories of two men: an American novelist and an Emirati college student. The nostalgic tale reveals that people are not creatures of logic, but rather emotion.

The films also pull on emotional heartstrings. Muna Al Ali’s Concealment is a complex visual metaphor about the repressed feelings we bury within us and try to forget…until they come bursting to the surface. In Khalid Al Mahmood’s Don’t Leave Me, two girls who were once childhood friends meet in adulthood through unfortunate circumstances. Though they do not recognize each other, they are linked subconsciously. The Brain that Sings, by Amal Al-Agroobi, follows the journey of two autistic boys in the UAE and the impact of three months of music therapy on their behaviour. The film also offers a uniquely personal insight into the cultural stigma associated with having a special needs child in the Arab world, and the issues the families face when planning their child’s future.

On a lighter note, Faith In Love, a romantic comedy by Alwiya Thani, follows Faith and Paul, who have been unlucky in love, until Paul’s sister, Jen, and their good friend and comedian, Ahmed, plan an elaborate series of events to restore their faith in love.

Animated film Girl and It, by Mohammad Fikree, is a darker take on relationships, wherein a hunter embarks on quest for a mysterious beast in the forest, only to stumble upon a girl who lives with him in the wilderness.

On the topic of the UAE’s incredibly diverse society, Nasser Al Yaqobi’s Haneen honours the lives of those who have come far from their homeland to work and found themselves in the nation closer to their homeland. Unified Home by Mansoor Al Dhaheri takes us on an overflowing journey of sincere emotions and testimonies from residents who cherish the UAE.

The arts are also explored in the programme. Red, Blue, Yellow by Nujoom Al Ghanem is an intimate portrait of the well-known first Emirati artist Najat Makki. Her art and name have become a legacy, and her life is a rich journey that is as colorful as her paintings. In the impressionistic Nafaf, by Hamad Al Hammadi a young girl wakes up to the smell of rain.

The 15 short films will compete for Best Film (AED 50,000), Special Jury Prize (AED 35,000), and Best Director (AED 25,000).  The tenth annual DIFF will take place from December 6 to 14, 2013. The Muhr Awards finalists will be announced at the festival’s closing ceremony.

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