Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi
Sharjah - Arab today
His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, together with his wife, Shaikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, formally opened the Sharjah Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) 2013 here on Monday.
This new project by Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children (FUNN) and the first-of-its-kind in the region was inaugurated at the Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) in the presence of eminent attendees, including Shaikhas, dignitaries, wives of consuls, officials, managers, children and youths from different schools in Sharjah.
Commenting at the official opening of the festival, Shaikh Sultan said, “Thank you for this wonderful event. The festival is the building block and the first step towards producing great films. I hope that this festival will be the beginning of future works. I wish all of our children the best of luck with love and appreciation for everyone.”
Shaikha Jawaher stressed the importance of children to society and “to our ways of thinking”, emphasising how much we can learn from them, saying, “Within the same minute, a child can go from crying to laughing, from anger to forgiveness. We see them as weak and fragile, but there’s nothing on earth more powerful than a child because since they have not yet learned what is impossible... To them, everything is possible.
“Unlike adults, children have not yet lost their innocence or their unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Through this festival, we can learn a lot from them; not only about children, but also about ourselves, because these films are a mirror that enables us to see our society, other societies and cultures from thought-provoking new angles.”
The festival will be showing 78 films from 32 countries, spanning short movies, animations, silent movies, and feature films, across several venues. The films target three different age categories: under seven years, eight to 13 years, and 14 to 18 years, and will be shown to school children in the mornings, facilitated by an MoU that FUNN signed with the Ministry of Education, for public schools at the JRCC and for private schools at Grand Cinemas in Sahara Centre, while the venues will be open to the public in the afternoon. Al Qasba venue will feature weekend shows.
FUNN will be displaying the results of the workshops they have conducted throughout the year in the JRCC.
FUNN’s assistant manager and SICFF director Jawaher Abdulla Al Qasimi added, “The festival is about entertainment, enrichment and education. It is designed to be a celebration of cultures around the world, respecting all traditions and ethics of everybody involved.
Our Ministry of Education has been very supportive, allocating time for our students from all over the UAE to attend the cultural fiesta.”
With 100 volunteers assisting in everything from registration and ticketing to seating and ushering, the SICFF is poised to be a grand and great family event.
Several local and regional filmmakers have also directed and created films specifically for children, and the excitement around these stories is particularly palpable.
Dr Naif Al Mutawa, founder and CEO of Tashkeel Media Group, and creator of The 99, the first group of comic superheroes born of an Islamic archetype, said, “Anyone who has ever heard children making up a tall tale knows that they are natural storytellers. Their vivid imaginations can turn the most mundane everyday scenes into an epic fantasy. Even if they are underprivileged and their daily life is a barren wasteland, they will turn it into a fertile oasis of ideas. We have a responsibility to keep cultivating their fertile imaginations so that they can harvest the benefits later on in life.”
The creator of Freej, the acclaimed Emirati cartoon series, Mohammed Saeed Harib, had more to say about the place of the emirate in the shaping of moving picture future, “Sharjah can stand proud and tall in the worldwide cinema industry, for hosting a ground-breaking festival, one of the first in the region. This is a sign of even greater things to come for the emirate.”
Jawaher Abdulla found the response and the energy of the festival encouraging, and briefly outlined future plans. “Next year, we’re planning to launch an amateur filmmaking competition around SICFF 2014, set up plenty of workshops in and around the festival, bringing in international guests, celebrities of children’s films, speakers and a few more surprises we’ll keep under wraps for now.”