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The year 2018 is a very special one for the UAE, as it marks the 100th birth anniversary of Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the nation. The entire country is celebrating the extraordinary life of one of the greatest leaders of all time.

The Winchester School, Jebel Ali, Dubai, decided it was the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to the legacy of Shaikh Zayed by dedicating one of the most illustrious and grand events held in the school, the Winchester Film Festival, a movie making festival, in the fond memory of Baba Zayed, as he’s lovingly known.

Furthermore, since Shaikh Zayed was one of the greatest humanitarians and philanthropists, all proceeds from the Winchester Film Festival were donated to Dubai Cares, towards the education of children in countries marred by natural calamities, war and poverty.

Rhea Sajnani, the deputy head of the primary section and also the head of the english department, initiated this exciting and enriching opportunity in 2012. The cardinal idea was to encourage children to create movies and display their learning through the practical application of skills ranging from script writing, costume and set designing, directing, acting, editing and a lot more.

She said: “To make the learning process exciting and engage students creatively, giving them enriching hands-on experience, I decided to get them to make short films. Looking at the amazing work and effort put into the making, we enhanced the overall experience further by celebrating the event like a grand film festival, with a red carpet event like the legendary Oscars. This event has now become one of the most awaited ones, a platform to engage and celebrate our very talented and budding artists!”

Sajnani decided that the themes for the movies this year need to be based on the values that Baba Zayed held close to his heart, such as generosity, unity, equality, inclusivity, philanthropy, tolerance, perseverance, sustainability, education and importance of family, to name a few.

What followed were months of planning, collaboration, brainstorming, improvisation and dedicated hard work. There was an impressive submission of 25 short movies in different languages including English, Arabic and French, as well as submissions from the school’s special educational needs department.

Once all the submissions were in, a panel of judges viewed them and winners in different categories were chosen. All the nominations and winners were celebrated at the Winchester Film Festival Awards Night, a scintillating event held on April 18, which was attended by an overwhelmingly huge audience of students and parents.

Winchester Film Festival 2018 will forever remain etched in the minds and hearts of the school community. The fact that the movies had to be based on the values, which Baba Zayed believed in, encouraged the children to delve deep into the life and times of the amazing leader. The more the children researched about Baba Zayed, the more inspired they were.

After the event, Meenakshi Dahiya, the principal and chief executive officer of The Winchester School, said she felt “privileged” to have been a part of this experience.

She said: “At Winchester, we continuously strive to give opportunities to all our children to exhibit their talents and also to enrich and enhance their experiences to build on strengths and areas to improve. We are very proud of our students, they are truly talented and our everyday purpose and commitment is to ensure each and every child gets some opportunity to try, challenge themselves and excel.”

It was an exercise, which facilitated the imbibement of a belief system that would help the participants at every step of their lives. Not only did the involved children benefit from the event, the entire school community was swept with the wave of awestruck admiration and remembrance of Baba Zayed. And above all, the school community had the satisfaction of raising funds for a worthy cause, thus honouring Baba Zayed’s values of philanthropy and charity.

Baba Zayed’s values live on, guiding us in everything we do, moulding our thoughts and actions. We hope that our celebration of his legacy will inspire more tributes in other organisations and institutions.

— The reader is a pupil based in Dubai.

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