Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival 2017
SICFF 2017 will host more than 40 workshops and 70 filmmakers
A six-day cinematic extravaganza commenced on Sunday evening with the opening of the fifth edition of Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF 2017) at the Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre. Inaugurated by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President, and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation and organized by FUNN – Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children, SICFF 2017 features an unprecedented 124 films from 31 countries, as well as workshops, seminars, and appearances by celebrated industry professionals.
”What gave me the passion for cinema was seeing a film of a young girl playing. I realised that her body movement was the language of beauty and nature. We need this language to achieve peace all over the world and that is what the Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival is trying to achieve under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah. To meet this goal we established a committee of 19 members, including film experts, critics and children, to select the right films to screen during the festival – films that will deliver a message of love and creativity,” said Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and Director of SICFF.
Geared as it is towards the younger generation, it was apt that child acting prodigy Jacob Tremblay was the international star of the SICFF 2017 opening ceremony. Canadian Tremblay’s outstanding performance in Room (2015) earned him numerous accolades, including the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. It saw him nominated for the 2015 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role, making him the youngest actor nominated for that award and the second youngest performer in all categories.
“I love acting – I was acting before I could walk or talk. My first big role was in Smurfs 2 when I was five years old and I got to travel all over the world and eat yummy food. One thing I have learnt as a child actor is that you need support. You need support from your parents as they are the ones that have to take you to castings and you need support from your agent so that you can land good roles. Acting is hard work. The days are long and some of the roles are emotionally draining. Also, as a child actor, you have to go to school on set while the adults get to relax! I would say that if you have a passion for acting, don’t give up. You won’t get every role you audition for, but that’s why I’m here in beautiful Sharjah today – because I didn’t give up,” he said.
Also opening SICFF 2017 were two luminaries of the UAE’s homegrown cinema scene. Ali Mustafa is considered one of the founders of the industry by being the first person to have produced an Emirati feature film City of Life, which was released in 2009. The British-Emirati filmmaker, director was branded the Best Emirati Filmmaker at the Dubai International Film Festival, won the ‘Young Filmmaker of the Year’ award at the Digital Studio Awards 2010 and had Variety magazine state that he was the Gulf region’s first director of international standing.
Ayman Jamal, Founder and Managing Partner of Barajoun Entertainment, was responsible for producing Bilal the first CG-animated film in the Middle East. The movie, which was inspired by the real-life story of Bilal Ibn Rabah, an African slave who became one of the early followers of the Prophet Muhammad, incorporated the work of animators from 22 countries.
“Many times over the years I’ve been asked what advice I would give my younger self and my answer is always the same – patience. Patience is the mother of all virtues. It is good to set goals but it is patience and determination that gets results. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor will the UAE film industry be. You must be patient and you must persevere. My first feature film as a director took four years. I thought the second would be much easier – it wasn’t, it also took four years! So I would say that you need three ‘Ps’ to succeed in this business; passion, patience and perseverance,” said Mustafa.
“I’d like to narrate a quick story. My friend and I were having a discussion about which one was more important, the book, the TV or the cinema. I won the argument that it was the cinema when the child we followed to find out which they preferred had read only four pages from a book but had seen several films in the same period! This shows the power of movies. Filmmakers now have a greater responsibility than ever towards kids and this is something that will only increase over the coming years,” said Jamal.
The opening of the fifth edition of SICFF also included a violin recital, a video of the festival organiser’s engagement with the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, a mime and dance sequence and the intervention of a robot named Titan, who implored children to have a go at making their own movie. The SICFF programme proper starts tomorrow at JRCC and runs until October 13.
SICFF 2017 will host 70 directors and filmmakers from around the world, with the United States leading the programme with 45 films, followed by the UAE with 33 films and then France with 29 films. All screenings will take place at JRCC during the festival. This year’s edition of the festival will also hold more than 40 training workshops covering an array of topics on cinema and the visual arts, which will continue at locations in Sharjah up until November 16. The event has been made possible through the support of Crescent (Gold Sponsor), Gulftainer (Silver Sponsor), Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (Silver Sponsor) Emirates (Official Airline) and Centro (Hospitality Partner).
Through SICFF and its other initiatives, FUNN – Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children aims to nurture a future generation of creative artists in media and film, and promotes new media works and films made by children and young filmmakers of the UAE at international film festivals, and conferences worldwide. Their larger goal is to foster talent through these festivals, conferences and workshops locally and internationally, and form a close-knit network of talented young people who can share experiences and expertise on a global scale.