Courtesy of Kim Husted
The fingerprint of a culture is its art.
Fitting with AU’s ideals of celebrating diversity and the understanding of other nations, last week marked AU’s First Annual United Arab Emirates Film Festival in the Greenberg Theater on Sept. 12 and 13.
The festival represented a coming together of Emirati and American cultures and featured three films produced in the UAE.
“Sea Shadow” was shown Wednesday night, followed by a discussion between the audience and director Nawaf Al-Janahi. The second night of the festival featured two more short films, “The Turtle” and “The Philosopher,” and a panel discussion with the filmmakers and organizers of the event.
For the duration of the film, the audience alternated between laughter and tense apprehension. The film portrays the journey of an Emirati boy nearing adulthood, examining his conflicts with family, tradition and values.
During the Q&A session afterward, the conversation focused on the growth of the Emirati film movement since Al-Janahi returned to the UAE from America in 1999.
Al-Janahi said the UAE is beginning to test the waters of filmmaking, as the first feature-length Emirati film was only made in the late 1980s. Now, new movies are being made every year, although they’re mostly short films.
Al-Janahi also stressed the importance of cross-cultural meetings like the festival.
“Cinema should be a universal language,” Al-Janahi said. “The more universal your approach [to filmmaking] is, the more successful you’ll be.”
Based on true events, “The Turtle” depicted the story of a child who meets a turtle that has eaten a plastic bag and can’t survive. This event prompts him to begin a movement with his class that eventually accomplishes a ban on non-biodegradable bags in the UAE.
“The Philosopher” is the tale of a rich and successful man who decides to give away all his possessions and become a philosopher. His quietly humorous difficulties in achieving “deep thought” entertain through the rest of the film.
“Arabs are great at telling stories,” “Philosopher” director Abdulla Al Kaabi said.