Cinema addicts can immerse themselves in movie magic as the Abu Dhabi Film Festival opens this weekend, and it's also not long before Dubai's festival gets rolling in December.
But before those, Sharjah is hoping to steal some focus with its very own festival. However, don’t expect gory film noire or a mirage of flashing lights as celebs canter down the red carpet - this movie medley is aimed squarely at budding film buffs.
The inaugural Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival is the brainchild of Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the ruler of Sharjah.
The nine-day, multi-location event is brimming with film fun, whether you have a Tarantino tot or a silver-screen tween. And according to film fanatic and event director Jawaher Abdulla Al Qasimi - who’s from the same family as Sheikha Jawaher - it’s about time kids in this region got their own fest.
“There are pre-existing film festivals that we have attended. We’ve been to the children’s sections and some just have one film screened every single day. At others there are just six or seven being shown,” says Jawaher. Her inspiration came when she visited the revered Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) and ‘lived’ in the cinema for five days straight. The offering at Berlin is like “a mini festival for kids”, she recalls. She’s hoping to replicate that in Sharjah and, with a mix of 78 films from 32 countries, is desperate to show there is high-quality viewing out there for kids.
“It is not only Disney or Pixar. We have nothing against them, of course - we are screening some Disney films for the kids - but we still want to show different kinds of films, different criteria and different techniques,” adds Jawaher.
“[We want] to educate about different genres of films. We have tragedy, drama, we have comedy, features - everything. We want children to explore and learn that films are not just something to make you laugh.” Jawaher stresses that the film fest is in its first year, with plans to introduce a host of workshops in the future, but she hopes its creation will inspire the next generation of UAE-based filmmakers.
“That is why we are going to schools… we want to encourage kids. Instead of putting them down, we want to show them that there is a space to express themselves.” If kids are interested in making films, Jawaher says they can “come to us and we can send them to filmmakers, do workshops.”
As a mother, Jawaher understands it can be overwhelming for parents as their kids grow up in the age of always-on entertainment. So she urges parents to direct their little ones towards quality, thought-provoking films and maybe look further afield than just their own culture’s entertainment.
“I have a three-year-old who, obviously as a child, likes to watch movies, but I have seen him on YouTube watching a movie in German. He is three and he watched the whole thing. It was around 10 minutes long, and what made me happy is he barely knows how to speak and certainly doesn’t understand German, but he enjoyed it. This is the vision that we have: we have different languages, different cultures and different ideas [in the festival],” she says. “We want to show that it is not wrong to learn from each and everyone, whether it is a different type of filmmaking, a different culture or a new technique. It is never wrong to learn.”
The Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival starts today and runs until Saturday, before moving to Khor Fakkan for two days and Al Dhaid for two days. Find the full schedule and locations at sicff.ae or facebook.com/sharjahicff
© 2022 Al Sidra Media LLC