Sheikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SIFF, during the opening ceremony.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
The long-awaited Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2021) returned on October 10 (Sunday) evening with its first-ever fully virtual edition and Kim Jin-Yu’s South Korean feature ‘Bori’ making its Middle East premiere.
The globally acclaimed film festival organised by FUNN – Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children under the theme ‘Think Film’, is open to audiences across the world who can register on the link www.siff.ae to enjoy the films and attend the workshops and panel discussions. SIFF will continue until Friday, October 15.
Speaking at the opening ceremony was Sheikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SIFF, the Emirati filmmaker Nahla Al Fahad, Syrian actor Abed Fahed, Yahya Mahayni, Syrian actor and writer whose moving performance in 2021 Oscar-nominated film The Man Who Sold His Skin won him international acclaim, and a host of Junior Jurors, who spoke eloquently about their experiences and dreams.
In her keynote address at the opening ceremony, Sheikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SIFF, said the film festival had grown into a truly unique and exclusive platform for the young generations to explore and strengthen their connection with the media arts.
Sheikha Jawaher said: “For years, FUNN has been realising the vision of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, as well as the directives of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, by investing in children and youth and building ambitious generations capable of fully expressing their creativity and sharing it with their peers worldwide.”
The Director of SIFF added: “Amid recent challenges and uncertainty, we deepen our bond with life and see the extraordinary in its simplicities. Films have gifted us fascinating and unforgettable moments. At times, they serve as a shield in the face of challenges and become a bridge that helps us reach out to and communicate with people, especially from other cultures.”
She concluded: “The 8th edition of SIFF will be exceptional, held virtually to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. We have a programme agenda, which I’m sure will not only meet, but exceed your ambitions and artistic vision. This year, we look forward to witnessing remarkable moments of creative genius, and in the process, explore varied experiences of participating filmmakers and media arts professionals who have joined us from around the globe. The new value they create on this platform will build on the achievements of the festival’s previous editions.”
An exceptional festival
In her address, Emirati filmmaker Nahla Al Fahad thanked the Emirate of Sharjah for the opportunities it gave children and youth to experience culture and arts through such festivals.
She said: “Today we are gathered here for an exceptional festival that aims to develop the talents of children and youth in the field of cinema. This golden opportunity was not available to previous generations. SIFF now provides it to lovers of photography, acting, and directing through film screenings, training workshops, and panel discussions, in addition to meeting with experts. It also provides training to develop the talents of participants as part of the festival’s objectives. Therefore, it has significant value as it grows children and youth from consumers of cinema to learning how it is created, taking them through the various stages of production while learning the art and craft of making films. Every family may have a potential writer, director, cinematographer or producer, and festivals such as SIFF are important tools to bring their talents to the fore and enrich the medium.”
Speaking about the importance of SIFF, Abed Fahad said: “Art has an irresistible magic power. Children and youth have an extraordinary capability to capture the beauty of cinema and interpret it in a way that reflects their dreams and reality. We start to develop our awareness of life and art as children or young people from our mothers’ lullabies, school hymns, when we strolled among nature or watched unforgettable movies. Those childhood impressions played a decisive role in choosing my career path and becoming what I am today.”
Festival organiser FUNN has confirmed that this edition will offer young cinema enthusiasts a unique opportunity to interact with top Arab and international actors and filmmakers.
SIFF’s vast repository of high-quality content spanning series, films, cartoons, songs, stories, and educational videos, will be available free-of-charge on MENA Mobile’s Bustan app.
Despite the many challenges for those engaged in the children’s film industry, including the lack of online access to all children during the current circumstances, “the future for children’s cinema remains very bright,” said Firdoze Bulbulia of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Film Festival in South Africa.
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