From top left clockwise: Sarah Zohair, Maram Ashour, Aisha Al Hammadi and sarah al agroobi Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Women filmmakers are now seeking to showcase their determination to occupy their rightful place in the film industry within the UAE.

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival, it turns out, is a much sought-after event to hone such talents.

Egyptian filmmaker Sarah Zuheir is celebrating her achievements at this year’s festival, held at the Emirates Palace. “It is my first time to participate at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival; however, I am really excited to represent my country there in addition to meeting with different people from various backgrounds,” Sarah, a 21-year-old university graduate, told Gulf News.

“It a great honour to get feedback from diverse people and distinctive personalities.”

Sarah is participating this year with two animated short films under the student short narratives competition. The first one is ‘The Third Deadly Sin’, a project on which she worked along with Majida Al Safadi and Omnia Al Afifi.

“In this animation, an alternate universe of animal is created that strongly resembles a real society, with greed, debt and ideology,” she said.

When she was asked why she chose animation to drive her short narratives, she replied: “Animation is a really expressive medium that can easily touch human feelings and deliver ideas to the mass audience smoothly.”

Sarah has made two short films, one short documentary and three animations so far. She was also a recipient of the prestigious Habib Award — it is an award given for media innovation and an initiative of the family of the late Habib Al Reda — at a special ceremony held in 2012 at the Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology campus. “I hope my work would be recognised because I have spent a lot of time and efforts and it is also a great experience to get your work acknowledged and do something competitive,” she said.

The festival continues to highlight the work and acknowledge the success of women filmmakers in its second week of celebrations.

Maram Ashour reveals a cultural and educative angle in her short films.

Maram is an Egyptian filmmaker and UAE resident participating for the first time in the Student Short Narrative Competition at the festival.

‘Ten Hours’, which was directed and co-directed by her and Mohammad Mamdouh, Omnia Al Afifi, Mahya Sultani and Sarah Al Agroobi, was screened at the festival. Maram also directed ‘The Settler’.

“The Settler narrates a story of a woman who chooses to settle for a life that makes her quickly forget everything she wanted to be, so that she can turn into everything else she was scared of becoming,” Maram says.

Discussing the film festival, she says: “It is a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world in a very beautiful place, introduce new ideas, and exchange different experiences and backgrounds no matter where you come from.”

Maram, 21, graduated from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) majoring in multimedia design. She also studied film production.

“I have participated before at the Gulf Film Festival in its fifth edition with Embodiment — short surreal film — depicting a female protagonist as she encounters several different female characters dressed the way she perceives them. Each character represents labels related to race, religion, social status, gender and politics,” she said.

“Cast, crew and filming equipments have been provided by the American University of Sharjah (AUS),” added Maram, who participated in this year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival with two short films of approximately 10 minutes duration.

The young director believes that women are emerging in the filmmaking industry to occupy their rightful place. “All my short films mainly focus on women from different countries and distinct backgrounds. I advocate women and I want to bring attention to significant issues affecting them in today’s society. In my point of view advocating women transfer their energies into raising awareness about serious problems facing them nowadays including, violence and equality.”

She added: “I produce and direct films not only for the sake of entertainment; however, I make films to send messages to mass audience all over the world. Nowadays, films can be one of the most powerful means which the individual can use to change certain ideas, habits and customs imposed on a segment of a society for a long time.”

Another talented filmmaker who has been an essential part of the production team of ‘Ten Hours’ (Ashar Saa’aat) is Sarah Al Agroobi.

The film captures the timeless journey of a woman waiting in anticipation for her man to come home.

“Trust yourself, think outside the box, use people who will truly support and assist your abilities,” Al Agroobi, 22, told Gulf News.

Al Agroobi participated last year at the Dubai Film Festival in the professional category with her short narrative ‘The Forbidden Fruits’ based on the lives of two young Emirati adults who regularly step out of their traditional homes to enjoy Dubai’s westernised aspects.

“Young directors should have the ability to not be afraid to vocalise their opinions and accept feedback and criticism,” she added.

This is Al Argoobi’s second time at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. “Film is my passion and I am looking forward to it as a main career to pursue,” the senior university student said.

“It is my second time at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival with the short documentary ‘Enough is Enough’,” Aisha Al Hammadi, a university student, said.

This documentary follows the lives of five Emiratis who wish to break the silence in their society by defending the rights of their foreign mothers and expressing how they feel about being bilingual. “Emiratis having foreign mothers should not be discriminated nor treated differently than pure Emiratis,” Aisha, 22, told Gulf News. “There isn’t any difference between Emirati mothers or foreign mothers,” she added.

Al Hammadi is very excited about participating at this year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival. “I have contributed to many competitions; however, I never won, therefore, I am looking forward to win this year after putting great effort and time and being much more prepared than the previous year.”