The Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (Siff) kicks off on October 13 and runs until October 18 at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC). Inspired chiefly by books and literature this year, Siff will screen 132 films in total. Here’s our guide to enjoying the festival.
Siff WILL SCREEN 132 FILMS — BUT WHERE?
More than 130 films will screen over the course of the week, coming from 39 countries and lending a global perspective to the annual festival. Screenings will take place across several venues in Sharjah and Dubai, including the JRCC (Sharjah) from October 14-18, Cinema Zero 6 (Sharjah) until October 17 and the Arabian Centre (Dubai) from October 15-17.
FILMS MADE BY YOUNG PEOPLE
As the festival is directed towards the youth, it only makes sense that a selection of its films are directed by budding creatives, too. That’s why this year, 59 of the total tally of titles comes from a relatively younger demographic, trained at various art and film schools around the world. Here’s a selection of those films:
‘The Station’: Jocelyn’ Wat’s four-minute animated short film about the fear of waiting at a station, told from the standpoint of a grandmother waiting to pick up her granddaughter at the wrong platform.
‘The Stained Club’: An award-winning animated short, ‘The Stained Club’ was created as a graduation film by six students in France. It follows a young boy named Finn, who finds other children with ‘stains’ like his on their bodies, but discovers there’s a deeper meaning behind them.
‘Voice Note’: Saudi Arabian director Lolwa Al Abdul Wahed presents a 16-munute film centred on Hussain, a hospitalised man unafraid of death. Living with a chronic illness, Hussain uses a tape recorder to escape reality and record his thoughts. But what happens when angry young patient Khalid moves into his room?
‘The Kite’: Director Martin Smatana premiered his film ‘The Kite’ at Berlinale 2019. Now, he brings the 13-minute film to Sharjah. ‘The Kite’ follows a boy who treasures his visits to his grandfather’s cottage, but becomes upset when he witnesses his grandfather grow frail and weak.
MOVIES INSPIRED BY BOOKS
Unesco recognised Sharjah as the World Book Capital 2019, and to celebrate, Siff will shine a light on book-inspired cinema, as well as the ways in which literature shapes film. Two such films showing at Siff are:
The Travelling Cat Chronicles (Tabineko ripoto)
Japanese director Koichiro Miki’s film, based on the 2012 eponymous book by Hiro Arikawa, follows cat-lover Satoru who suffers a tragic incident and must move in with his aunt. As an adult, he adopts stray cat Nana, but after five years, he can’t keep her any longer and embarks on a journey searching for someone who could care for her.
Perfectly Naughty Kids
Russian filmmaker Tatiana Kiseleva brings to screen a short animation, based on a story by Ksenia Dragunskaya titled ‘Medication for Obedience’. ‘Perfectly Naughty Kids’ is set in a bizarre children’s’ sanatorium, where Dr Pyatkin is confronted with kids who are too perfectly behaved — and his job is to make them naughtier.
This year, Siff will host its biggest premiere season with a total of 105 premieres. 12 of those will be world premieres, 11 UAE premieres, 7 GCC premieres and 75 Middle East premieres.
The world premieres include ‘Paw Prints’, created by the Sharjah-based filmmaker Nebula Karkada to raise awareness about stray animals. They also include ‘Tayyar Al Haya’, ‘Karma’, ‘Go On’ and ‘A Silent Memory’ from the UAE, ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Apples and Oranges’ from India, ‘Florigami’ from Croatia and Serbia, ‘Swimming to The Moon’ from the Netherlands, ‘This Side, Other Side’ and ‘Asho’ from Iran and ‘Dance is My Gun’ from Lebanon and America.
WORKSHOPS AND PANELS
As with any film festival, Siff’s schedule will also include workshops and panels that cover specialised topics such as SFX (special effects) make up and stop motion animation. The workshops and panels take place across four stations — the Kids Stations, Youth Station, Canon Station and Stage Talks. Here’s the schedule:
At the Kids Station, sessions include Studio Photography, Create your Own Zoetrope, Stop Motion Animation and Special Effects Make Up. The Youth Station tackles slightly more advanced topics such as Data Gold, Drone Flying and the Pre-Writing Stage. The Canon station is focused on the camera brand, Canon, and will cover Gureilla-style storytelling techniques and basics of filmmaking. Finally, Stage Talks will feature discussions on bullying and success elements for youth.
A full schedule is available on Siff’s websites; while morning workshops are only available to schools and universities (who can call in at a dedicated number), evening workshops are available for registration on the spot, but those interested should arrive 30 minutes early.
FILM JURY: 18 EXPERTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
This year’s Siff jury comprises of 18 members. They will judge entries in seven categories — Child and Youth Made Films, Students’ Films, GCC + UAE Short Films, International Short Films, Animation Films, Documentary Films and Long Feature Films.
The judges are Saudi director Ahmed Al Shayeb, Emirati actor-author Yaser Al Neyadi, Bahraini YouTuber Omar Farooq, Saudi Arabian actor Abdul Mohsen Al Nemer, Emirati actor-director Abdullah Al Junaibi, Kuwaiti actor-director Abdul Rahman Al Aqel, Japanese author Michiko Tachimoto, film critic Khalid Rabai, Saudi Arabian actor-author Nawaf Al Shobali, Syrian actor Bassel Khayat, Kuwaiti clinical psychologist and writer Dr Naif Al Mutawa, Emirati filmmaker and composer Mohammad Fikree, French artist and filmmaker Carlos De Carvalho, Egyptian critic Tarek Al Shenawy, UK content creator Nadir Nahdi, distribution manager Julian Carrington, Egyptian filmmaker and critic Yousry Nasrallah and Emirati director and executive producer Nahla Al Fahed.
For a full schedule of events, locations and dates, visit siff.ae. Daily schedules are split into two and Siff passes are priced at Dh26.25 per morning or evening. Tickets are available online.