Entertainment | Film & Cinema

Meet the filmmakers behind the Gulf Film Festival

The Gulf Film Festival takes film in the UAE and region to another level. Here's your introduction to some of the featured filmmakers

  • By Kelly Crane, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 April 14, 2010
  • Tabloid

Heba S. Abu Musaed
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Nafaq is a short film that shows the inner pain of a harassed female, says Heba S. Abu Musaed.

With Ali F. Mostafa's City of Life leading the way at the third edition of the Gulf Film Festival, filmmakers from across the region are creating a buzz with shorts, documentaries and features with substance.

Held under the patronage of Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, the festival boasts a rich showcase of Emirati films, taking the evolution of cinema in the UAE a step further.

Maher Al Khaja, whose film The Curse of the Devil explores the case of a group of journalists who go missing after exploring the Red Area, says this year's festival has shown the talent of the local filmmakers from the GCC.

"The standard of filmmaking this year has been exceptional."

Unique programming

The Emirati short films include Jamal Salim's My Home, which depicts the story of an Emirati struggling to find a job.

Levity — Xero Error Minus 1 by Ashraf Ghori is based on the creation of the first naturally-intelligent cyborg, XE7, that is sent back in time to record lost history. The story of a little girl awaiting her father's return near the village gates is told in Amjad Abu Al Ala's Emirati-produced movie Teena.

The Gulf Film Festival runs until today at Dubai Festival City and is supported by Dubai Culture in association with Dubai Studio City.

tabloid! spoke to some of the filmmakers.

Shamma Abu Nawas, 22, Hafsa Al Mutawa, 24, andShahd Khalid, 22
Nationality: Emirati
Film: SHHH
Category: Student short feature films

All-time favourite movie?

Abu Nawas: Nothing in general, but I usually look at different aspects such as style and cinematography.
Al Mutawa: I usually like watching movies that tackle social issues, such as the Indian movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.
Khalid: I enjoy watching different genres, but usually drama based on true stories such as The Other Boleyn Girl.

Last movie you watched and what you thought?

Abu Nawas: City of Life (above, right). It has made me proud to be in the Emirati film industry which has given me hopes that I will be able to reach that level someday.
Al Mutawa: And the Silence Remains, directed by Nasser Al Rahma. A film about the importance of parenthood, and betrayal of the wife with her son's friend.
Khalid: Am Arabi, a documentary directed by Jumana Al Ganem and Ahlam Al Bannai about the status of the Arabic language amongst today's Arab youth and its solutions towards preserving the language and its use — very interesting to see different opinions and views about the language.

Describe your film in one line?

Four Emirati friends brought together to face a society riddled with obstacles, jealousy and hatred.

What inspired this film?

We believe that it is time to stand up and uncover the problems in our society and make it public. As we have seen our generation is the only generation experiencing such problems — the older generations don't know about them or are in denial. These problems have been publicised to spread a message and is a wake-up call for every family, educational institution, and the whole society in general.

The hardest thing about being a filmmaker in the Gulf?

As three young Emirati filmmakers we have faced many obstacles in terms of support from the film industry. As well as the media, other filmmakers don't accept the fact that there are young talented Emirati filmmakers competing with them.

Heba S. Abu Musaed
Age: 29
Nationality: Palestinian in Abu Dhabi
Film: Nafaq
Category: Lights

All-time favourite movie?

I love A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, The Godfather 1, Pulp Fiction, Persona, The Wall and American Beauty.

Last movie you watched and what you thought?

Alice in Wonderland (below) — I like anything by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Describe your film in one line?

Nafaq is a short film that shows the inner pain of a harassed female.

What inspired this film?


The hardest thing about being a filmmaker in the Gulf?

To find actors.

Ashraf Ghori

Nationality: Indian, Dubai-based for 34 years
Film: Levity — Xero Error Minus 1
Category: Official competition shorts

All-time favourite movie?

Star Wars

Last movie you watched and what you thought?

Logorama (below, right) — brilliant.

Describe your film in one line?

Scientists from the future create Project Xero Error to track lost history. An advanced Natural Intelligence Cyborg XE7 witnesses an unexplained event in time.

What inspired this film?

My love for comic books, superheroes and all things sci-fi.

The hardest thing about being a filmmaker in the Gulf?

Lack of facilities makes it very challenging for expat filmmakers to make movies here.

Haider Rashid

Age: 24
Nationality: Italian/Iraqi living between London and Florence.
Film: Tangled Up in Blue
Category: Official Competition (Feature Films)

All-time favourite movie?

It's very hard to answer such a question, but I admit to being compulsively obsessed by Taxi Driver (right) by Martin Scorsese and American cinema of the '70s.

Last movie you watched and what you thought?

The last movie I saw is actually my own, and I thought it was brilliant. But if I must be a little less self-involved, I saw a few films here at the Gulf Film Festival and found it exciting to see that there is a movement towards challenging stories. It's a step forward, but I'm hoping filmmakers from this region can keep on getting even more daring and brave in their efforts.

Describe your film in one line?

Drama of urban alienation set in London about the son of a world-renowned Iraqi writer facing his conscience, past, unrequited love and his assassinated father's legacy.

What inspired this film?

This is a film that attempts to express a feeling of compression, of loss, of chaos, alienation that I — and many around me — have felt during the past decade, which is so often and aptly referred to as the noughties: What's there to remember? What happens now?

The hardest thing about being a filmmaker in the Gulf?

Finding an audience for a film that attempts to be different in both content and style and convincing distributors to gamble on independent filmmakers.

Shaikha Awad Al Ayali

Age: 22
Nationality: Emirati in Dubai
Film: Heat The Beat 2
Category: Student competition documentary

All-time favourite movie?


Last movie you watched and what you thought?

Serendipity, it has a special romantic kind of story and what makes it unique is the faith and believing in destiny when it has a sense of humour.

Describe your film in one line?

It takes the audiences through a journey with two Emirati brothers who are in love with hip-hop and rapping.

What inspired this film?

I got inspired by a speech from a friend of mine about hip-hop in the UAE, and I was surprised in the beginning because I thought that it's just in the US, which really interests me as a filmmaker.

The hardest thing about being a filmmaker in the Gulf?

As a documentary filmmaker, I think picking a sensitive and physically powerful topic and filming it in a creative way to deliver a message is the hardest thing in terms of finding people to talk about it in front of the camera.

Don't miss it

The Gulf Film Festival, held at Grand Cinemas, Dubai Festival City, ends today, but there are still chances to catch some of the best in Arabic film. Today's films include: Heat The Beat 2 at noon, Dobuy, a documentary about Emirati women launching their own design companies, at 3.15pm, and the UAE horror film The Curse of the Devil at 3.45. All films are free to the public and have English and Arabic subtitles.

And make sure you don't miss the first feature film about Dubai, City of Life, which goes on general release on April 22. The film will also be screened today at 6.45pm.

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