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Documentary on UAE shipbuilding sector to air soon

Film looks back at the early life of Emiratis and their trade ties with the world

Gulf News

Dubai: A locally-produced documentary on the history of shipbuilding in the UAE will highlight the seafaring tradition of Emiratis.

Titled ‘Old Wood’, the documentary was produced by Chinese filmmaker Tang Zhen Gang under the direction of Wessam Zebian of Delta Production. The film focuses on the laborious process of turning wood and raw materials into sailing vessels using bare hands and some simple tools.

It was shot using high-definition filming technology at various locations in the UAE and the maritime city of Tyre in Oman where dhows are being built to this day.

“In the olden days, they didn’t have technology. So imagine how they used to build a ship using normal tools with their hands. Their tools, if they used them now, I can’t imagine if you could do anything with it now,” Zebian told Gulf News.

A preview of the film, which will soon air on a television station in the UAE, was screened on Monday at a press conference attended by Chinese consul general Zhan Jingbao besides Juma Bin Thalith, director of the Maritime Heritage Department at the Emirates Diving Association. In attendance were veterans of the shipbuilding sector and even some centenarians who contributed to the shipbuilding tradition of the country.

“It’s important because the UAE heritage is related to the sea somehow. Plus these old men are the only people who have witnessed the past, so we have to document it because new generations will come and they know nothing about it,” Zebian said.

The film looks back at the early life of Emiratis who at the time were largely seafarers and traded with many countries, including China.

Speaking about his inspiration for the documentary, the film’s producer Tang said: “Shipbuilding embodies the cultural bridge linking the history and culture of the UAE to the present-day shipbuilding industry of China. Both the countries share a strong tradition in shipbuilding and it is this great tradition that I wanted to explore through the film, specifically how the history and identity of the UAE is shaped by the art of shipbuilding.”