Dubai Film student Fawaz Al Matrouk screened his To Rest in Peace, starring Hollywood actor Michael Benyaer, for the first time at this year's Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).
Benyaer was previously seen in Hollywood box office hits such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G. I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra.
Al Matrouk — a Kuwaiti film student at the University of Southern California — said he cast Benyaer in the leading role of Malek for his thesis film set during the first Gulf War after the actor volunteered his acting skills through the California Screen Actors Guild.
"A lot of people were passionate about this project and because very little money is put towards student films the actors volunteered their time," the director said.
"It was very moving to see how many people came together to help."
To Rest in Peace is an 18-minute short film based on a true story set in Kuwait, in the 1990s during the first Gulf War. Malek, who portrays the character of Al Matrouk's uncle, sees two dead bodies which have been abandoned in a car by the side of the road. The story revolves around Malek who decides to give the two a proper burial.
"This is the true story of my uncle. I heard it when I was eight years old and it stuck with me ever since," said Al Matrouk. "It represented to me the importance of human dignity and the need to preserve it in times of war."
Interestingly enough, part of the film was shot on Failaka Island in Kuwait, which had remained untouched for 10 years after the war, preserving bombed buildings and original bullet holes.
However, the crew became aware that a day after shooting wrapped, the town would be demolished to make way for new developments.
"I'm glad we were able to capture a piece of history that is no longer there but at the same time if feels good to move on," he said.
Al Matrook was one of a handful of student filmmakers who had their films shown at DIFF this year.
However, students were given special privileges for the first time at this year's event. To encourage regional talent, media and film students at DIFF 2010 had the opportunity to get up close and personal with experts.
For the first time they could register separately for student registration, which allowed them to attend workshops, panel discussions and master classes as well as network with industry specialists.
"Today's film students are tomorrow's filmmakers. By giving them a voice we will be able to build a better industry and give them the tools they need to succeed," said Shivani Pandya, Managing Director of DIFF.
— For more information onAl Matrouk's film log on towww.torestinpeacefilm.com