His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah with the winners and organizers at the Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival at the Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre, Sharjah. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ Gulf News

Sharjah: Taking every possible opportunity to expose children to the art of filmmaking and to support their creative skills in media art is of significant importance, said His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, as he inaugurated the second edition of the Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) yesterday.

Dr Shaikh Sultan stressed the importance of providing the appropriate environment and tools to nurture those talents, in order to put them on the right path and create a new generation of creative talents who are able to compete with top children cinema artistes around the world.

The festival, organised by FUNN, a foundation specialised in enhancing children and adolescents’ access to arts and media, is being held under the patronage of Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of Dr Shaikh Sultan and chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family affairs who also inaugurated the event.

During the opening of the festival, which took place at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre, Dr Shaikh Sultan also honoured the winners of the film competition which covers five categories.

As the event started, a number of renowned artists who work in the animation industry spoke about their journey towards success and the steps they had to take to accomplish milestones in their lives. They also told children about the importance of believing in their talents and abilities and to benefit from the experience they are getting through such festivals.

Speaking at the event, Shaikha Jawaher said that all the effort and work put into the festival is mainly to foster new young talents and making sure children benefit from the experience being offered to them.

“We have started the SCIFF for children and we will continue working on making it a better experience for them every year. We have already started brainstorming ideas for next year’s festival, and it will be our duty to exert every possible effort to expand and develop this festival to become an extraordinary event,” she said.

As she addressed the children siting in the hall, she said: “To every child out there, you could be a source of inspiration to other children and to the next generation too. May you walk on red carpets and inspire others throughout your journey, but always remember to keep bringing joy to others.” Brian Ferguson, an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios, briefed the audience next about the different steps taken in animation from conception to release and the work he deals with at Disney. Among the cartoons he worked on are Beauty and The Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Tarzan and others. He highlighted the importance of such a festival to unlock the potential of talented children in the Arab world, and the Middle East at large.

Ferguson offered his advice to children who are looking for a career in animation and filmmaking saying: “Don’t be afraid to love what you are doing. If you have a passion, you should spend time practising it and be willing to look and observe the things that impress you in life because those are things that you could actually put into your filmmaking.”

Najla Al Shehi, an Emirati filmmaker and writer who has worked on a number of animated films in the UAE, addressed the children in specific and told them about how lucky they are to be living in a nation that offers them everything they need to be successful filmmakers.

“Every child should take advantage of being in such festivals and should exit this hall as a filmmaker, writer, or photographer. Just do it. Grab a camera and do your own film. I believe that if we continue holding such festivals, within 20 years I guarantee that we could reach an international level,” she said.

Amal Huwayja, Syrian theatre actress and children’s literature writer, also gave a speech about her career and how she chose to follow her passion. She also said she predicts that the festival will reap its rewards by nurturing a creative generation.

The six-day festival will run until October 23, and a number of the 112 films chosen will be screened publicly in five cities. As an addition this year, the festival has incorporated several interactive sessions and workshops where children will learn scriptwriting, photography, filmmaking, and other media-related arts.