Prominent Directors under the spotlight share their experiences with UAE cinema student

Wed Dec 08,2004

Directors under the spotlight at the Dubai International Film Festival interacted with students of cinema and other disciplines related to film-making in an absorbing panel discussion at the Dubai Knowledge Village. The Directors, each with different approach to film-making, imparted a feel of the unifying influence of film in bridging cultural divides and bringing minds closer together.

The four Directors who made up the panel were Canadian Mark Achbar, Daoud Abdel Sayed from Egypt, Moroccan Mohamed Asli and Subhash Ghai from India. The discussion was moderated by Hannah Fisher, previously Director of the Vancouver Film Festival.

Mohamed Asli has worked as a cinematographer on numerous documentaries and TV projects. A well known producer, he founded the Kanzaman Studios and the Centre of Cinema Production in Ourzazate. He makes his directorial debut with ‘In Casablanca Angels Don’t Fly.’

Mark Achbar is best known for the award winning documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media and has been working in political film, video and publishing for almost 30 years. The Corporation, another one of his award winning documentaries, is being screened at the festival.

Daoud Abdel Sayed is recognized as a leader in the New Realism movement in Egyptian cinema. He is a Director in the Spotlight of the Dubai festival, He has directed numerous documentaries, shorts and feature films in his career spanning more than 30 years.

Subhash Ghai started his career as an actor before shifting to writing and then to directing, debuting with Kalicharan in 1976. He founded India’s first corporate film company Mukta Arts in 1978. He has managed to span the gap between popular and artistic cinema, producing blockbusters that are hailed by the critics. His films Pardes and Taal are showing at the festival.

In their opening remarks the Directors spoke about their experiences when they were students of cinema themselves and about what their general advice to students of today. The discussion was peppered with their personal experiences on their march towards recognition and also about their experiences when handling cross-cultural issues.

Subhash Ghai said: ”Every film maker wants to be an internationally recognized figure eventually but it is essential that they also develop into a student of human emotions and values. Studying cinema in a place like Dubai is very advantageous as it has a great combination of infrastructure, plans and the desire to develop its human capital.”

Mohamed Asli added his thoughts about the theme of the festival, ‘Building Bridges, Meeting Minds’. He said: “Bridges have two sides and we need cooperation and more interaction between regional and international film industry.”

Mark Achbar said: “I studied film as a painter studies painting with an objective of communicating social messages rather than with any commercial end in mind. A student has to learn and understand the vocabulary, poetry and grammar of the medium of film so that they can appreciate the nuances better and communicate their vision to audiences better.”

Daoud Abdel Sayed said: ”We need objectivity while tackling issues in film and this becomes very important when you want to reflect the economic and political situation of the people.”

On being asked as to how they deal with and cast actors in their films, Subhash Ghai said: ”I do not take any auditions and screen tests before I finalise on the lead actors for my films. It is an intuitive process where the most important things are eye, face and body language, personality, style of communication and the overall fit with the character.”


Commenting on the inclusion of media awareness courses in schools, they were of the view that more skill based courses need to be incorporated into curricula rather than memory based courses. Including a film and art appreciation course as part of school curriculum would make the viewers better at understanding the craft and style of cinema not only of their own culture but also of others.


Answering a direct question about the negative image of the Arab world in Hollywood and how to counter the misperceptions in the western world, Mark Achbar said: “In brief, my answer is - make your own films about your own stories.”






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