Dubai: There is no government censorship of UAE films, but filmmakers said they self-censor their works.
National directors discussed the cinema industry in the UAE at a press conference on Wednesday.
They included Omar Ebrahim, Ali Mustafa, Abdullah Ahmad, Saeed Al Merri and Nada Al Karimi, who will all screen their films at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) this year, in the Emerging Emirati programme.
They said their films had not been presented to any censorship body, unlike films in other Arab countries.
"We are independent filmmakers," said Ebrahim, "and we aren't censored by anybody. But we do self-censor, because we are conservative people who live in a conservative country."
Ahmad said while he wanted government support none of the filmmakers had received any government support that should be in the form of education, and not money.
"If we are given money, that could be conditional or could impose censorship," he said.
The directors said they wanted to use short films to get across different messages.
"This is a rich country, but we don't all live in ivory palaces," said Ebrahim.
"We have problems that are maybe worse than other people's, because they are not spoken of." He said short films could bring these problems out.
Ahmad said he wanted to focus on the "golden age" of UAE culture, between the 1950s and '70s.
"We have so many stories. We are not angels. I hope to go back in time, I'm not satiated yet by these old stories, love stories, simple stories."
Nada said: "There are issues out there but it's how you deal with them. I think all issues are issues affecting the UAE."
Movie inflames passion
Female circumcision was not the issue director Joceyln Saab intended to present in her film Kiss Me Not On The Eyes, but it inflamed passions at a press conference on Wednesday.
The film discusses the struggle for intellectual and physical freedom, Saab said, through the story of Dunia, a young woman studying Eastern dance and completing her masters in Arabic love poetry, against the wishes of her husband.
Denial of physical freedom is partly played out through the circumcision of a young girl in the film by her grandmother. The film later reveals that all the leading women bar one, are circumcised.
Few Arab films have touched upon the issue which affects many rural Egyptian and Sudanese women.
The issue sparked a heated debate at the press conference between members of the audience. One entertainment broadcaster said the Lebanese francophone director had exaggerated the issue of female circumcision.
"I don't say the film is about circumcision they say it," said Saab.
Leading actress Hanan Turk said the film was not meant to single out female circumcision but was about "all our mental and physical circumcisions" in the Arab world.
The film was shot in Egypt in seven weeks, after a five-year struggle with Egyptian censors to allow the film.
Saab's film was screened on Tuesday night to a sell-out audience at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). It will also be screened today.