The movies reflected issues of heritage as well as contemporary vibes Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The second ‘Al Marmoom: Film in the Desert’ festival organised by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) at the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve showcased a diverse and culturally rich spectrum of Arab stories through the films screened. The festival renewed the hopes of filmmakers for a promising future for the film industry in Dubai and the UAE, as it is one of the tributaries of Dubai’s creative economy.

In line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to cement Dubai’s position as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity and a thriving hub for talent, Dubai Culture launched the ‘Al Marmoom: Film in the Desert’ festival in 2020, providing the community with an innovative cinematic experience in the open air within a unique, educational family atmosphere.

This year’s edition, which concluded on December 11, allowed the audience and movie enthusiasts to delve into the region’s rich history, long-standing traditions, and contemporary vibes. It meaningfully showcased nostalgic issues related to identity and offered eloquent insights that reflect the remarkable diversity of the Arab culture.

Artistic techniques

Shaikh Maktoum Marwan Al Maktoum, project manager of the ‘Al Marmoom: Film in the Desert’ festival and senior officer in the Projects and Events Department at Dubai Culture, said: “The films showcased at the second edition of the festival were diverse and highlighted societal issues. The stories allowed the audience to learn about our authentic cultural heritage—a heritage that deserves to be shared with the world. The collection of films was a window to innovative narrative experiences. They exhibited our youth’s creativity and artistic techniques, highlighting their competence and perspectives.”

Shamma Yahya Alzaffin, project manager of the ‘Al Marmoom: Film in the Desert Festival’ and senior officer of the Arts and Literature Sector’s CEO’s office at Dubai Culture, highlighted the importance of the festival’s distinguished works that educate, entertain and inspire the audience. She said: “The festival is an innovative idea to give filmmakers an exciting opportunity and a platform to present inspiring works that reflect their perspectives and draw attention to community issues. This confirms Dubai Culture’s keenness to explore new experiences and experimental cinema.”

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Social context

Over its three days, the festival screened 27 films—both feature films and films shortlisted for the Al Marmoom Short Film Competition.

The feature films showcased included ‘Honey Rain and Dust’ by Emirati Filmmaker Nujoom Alghanem. In the movie, she tells the stories of three of the most famous honey collectors in the UAE. It begins with the story of Ghareeb, a beekeeper who established a protective sanctuary at the top of the mountains where he can better manage the environs and protect his honeybees. The story then moves on to Fatima and Aisha, who prefer to roam the mountains freely to find the highest natural honey.

Through her movie ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon,’ Lebanese director and screenwriter Mounia Akl sought to tell the story of a family that decides to leave Beirut to live in nature. The parents believe they are saving their children from years of suffering living in the city. Nadine Labaki, Saleh Bakri, and Youmna Marwan star in this work, which Lebanon nominated for the Academy Awards.

History of the marshes and more

‘Osha’s Gift’, a short narrative film by Emirati director Hind Abdullah seeks to introduce therapy through art and showcase how loyalty to friends remains after their departure. The film is based on the true story of the young Emirati visual artist Ashwaq, who lost her old friend, Hind, and highlights her new friendship with the child Osha.

Through her short film ‘Why is my grandfather’s bed in our living room?’ Emirati director Sarah Al Hashemi tells the story of a family that lost their grandfather’s house to development plans. While its members remember their loss, an old wooden bed appears in the middle of the hall, representing the only remaining memory of the house.

The short documentary ‘The Marshes of Iraq’ by director Ali Mohammed Al Hamami presents the history of the marshes, the stories of that region and, through real testimonies, an image of the close connection between the people and the land.

The festival’s second edition also witnessed 23 specialised talks and workshops to promote local cinema. The festival was held in partnership with several public and private entities in Dubai: the Roads and Transport Authority, Dubai Municipality, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the Department of Economy and Tourism, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, the Ministry of Education, Emirates Airline, Careem, Meraas, The American University in Dubai, ‘Proudly from Dubai,’ an initiative of Brand Dubai, Trust Your Water, VOX Cinemas, Weyyak, Zayed University, Nikon, Raindance, Project You, New Media Academy, GTV, and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre