Six-day cinematic feast begins in Sharjah - GulfToday

Six-day cinematic feast begins in Sharjah

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Sheikh Saud Bin Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi honours Joanne Salmon at the SIFF opening ceremony. John Varughese / Gulf Today

Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent

The seventh Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2019) commenced on Sunday evening highlighting the capacity of the human spirit to realise the dreams through screening animated film ‘Chin Up’ and the Japanese feature film ‘The Traveling Cat Chronicles’.

The screening of short animation ‘Chin Up’ by Britain’s JoAnne Salmon who hasn’t let her rare genetic condition, which has given her a facial disability, stop her going places with her artistic talent, and the Japanese feature film, ‘The Traveling Cat Chronicles’ inspired by the book, The San Francisco Chronicles, showed them the beauty of uncompromising emotional connections; not just with humans but animals and our environment.

Young Saudi actor Abdullah Ali, who has received international acclaim for his lead role in ‘Born a King’, got up on the SIFF 2019 podium and strongly emphasised to his peers that the future of Arab cinema is in their hands – a platform they must collectively develop to tell their stories to the world.

“To all the young aspiring filmmakers here today – understand that we are the future of the Arab and Muslim world and we will be sharing our stories that will be produced by us, directed by us and will be featuring us as actors,” said Ali, who plays King Faisal’s character in the Kingdom’s first commercial film.

He said, “The stories that we decide to share will be inspiring, not just to the UAE or the Arab world, but the whole world. Because what you have just imagined is what I have lived. I would like you to live this dream too, and the only way we can do it is through the wonderful human imagination.” Recalling his experience, he said, “Three years ago, I did not know what I wanted to do and then this opportunity to act in ‘Born a King’ came along. I grabbed it. One thing this experience has taught me is that all that matters is for you to strongly believe in yourself and your capabilities. I believed in me as a 16-year-old, and look where it got me.”

The opening ceremony was attended by Sheikh Saud Bin Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and a galaxy of starts from the Arab and international cinema fraternity including Kuwaiti actor Abdul Rahman Al Aqel, Syrian actor Bassel Khayat, Saudi actor Abdul Mohsen Al Neme, Emirati filmmakers Nujoom Al Ghanem, Abdullah Al Junaibi and Nahla Al Fahad, Egyptian filmmaker-critic Yosri Nasrallah, Canadian director Julian Carrington and British animator Joanne Salmon.

Delivering keynote address at the opening ceremony, Director of FUNN and SIFF Sheikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi said that this year’s edition is special for its theme, the new dimensions and objectives added, and for the success it has seen in attracting three times the number of entries for its film competitions compared to the 2018 edition.

“This impressive turnout of the youth to participate in SIFF 2019 has justified the confidence we have always placed in the talent and ambition of this age group, which led us to broadening the scope of SIFF to include youth, starting this year,” she said. She added, “This year we celebrate Sharjah being named World Book Capital 2019 by Unesco – a prestigious title we have brought home for establishing Sharjah as the home of science, knowledge and culture. Celebrating books is a celebration all genres of art. The festival design too is inspired by books, and its sections portray scenes from movies, which have all been adapted from books.”

“In fulfilling SIFF’s social responsibility, which is integral to the success of the festival, this year we are taking the magic of art and cinema to orphaned children in Egypt in the form of a film carnival. Through our platform, we want to bring its purity and joy to more children and youth, no matter their circumstances. Film screenings, workshops, seminars and a host of activities will make up this special carnival.”

Kuwaiti artist Abdul Rahman Al Aqel said that the festival is an extraordinary event that shows us promising horizons, and takes the younger generations on a journey into knowledge and artistic experiences, like no other event in the region.

Emirati filmmaker Nujoom Al Ghanem said that every year, SIFF further intensifies its promise as a leading platform driving new generations towards greater prospects in the field.