The magic of cinema at SIFF 2019 shows UAE’s youth things they can achieve just by believing in themselves

The Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2019) – commenced on Sunday evening, highlighting to the UAE’s youngest audiences that the capacity of the human spirit to push us to realise our dreams and do good wherever we are is a universal quality. With a 4:41 minute 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.

The Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2019) – commenced on Sunday evening, highlighting to the UAE’s youngest audiences that the capacity of the human spirit to push us to realise our dreams and do good wherever we are is a universal quality. With a 4:41 minute 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.

 

Additionally, the 18-year-old Saudi Arabian actor Abdullah Ali who has received international acclaim for his lead role in ‘Born a King’, got up on the SIFF 2019 podium

has 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.     

 

The six-day festival, which has expanded its scope this year to focus on both children and youth, will be held until Friday, October 18, under the theme ‘Films Inspired by Books’, in line with Sharjah’s ongoing cultural celebrations as UNESCO World Book Capital 2019.

 

Sheikh Saud bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and a galaxy of starts from the Arab and international cinema fraternity – Kuwaiti actor Abdul Rahman Al Aqel; Syrian actor Bassel Khayat; Saudi actor Abdul Mohsen Al Neme; Emirati poet and filmmaker Nujoom Al Ghanem, Emirati director Abdullah Al Junaibi; Emirati filmmaker Nahla Al Fahad; Egyptian filmmaker and critic Yosri Nasrallah; and Canadian director Julian Carrington – attended the SIFF 2019 opening ceremony.

 

Cinema, the seventh art – an expression of humanity 

In her keynote address at the opening ceremony, Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SIFF, said 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. This follows the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the support of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, who believe in the vital role youth need to play in advancing societies.”

 

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.”

 

FUNN and SIFF Director continued: “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.”

 

SIFF is an extraordinary event for the region’s youth

Kuwaiti artist Abdul Rahman Al Aqel said: “SIFF 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. This platform is shaping the youth’s future by engaging them with the medium of cinema and by showing them its possibilities. Art enables us to discover our inherent potential. Therefore, we are proud of this festival, which is paving the way for several new generations to have a brighter tomorrow.”

 

Emirati filmmaker and journalist Nujoom Al Ghanem added: “Every year, SIFF further intensifies its promise as a leading platform driving new generations towards greater prospects in the field. Here, we have been discovering and will continue to discover extraordinary films being made around the world – many of  which are the creations of some of the youngest filmmakers, which we will probably never to see otherwise. It is due to FUNN’s efforts to bring the most impacting and high-quality cinema made for the young audience on one stage, that our journey of learning and human enrichment continues.”

 

Also opening SIFF 2019 were regional and international luminaries, British animator Joanne Salmon and young Saudi actor, Abdullah Ali, who plays king Faisal’s character in the Kingdom’s first commercial film, ‘Born a King’.

 

Abdullah Ali – we the future of the Arab world will be sharing stories that we direct and we act in

“It is a true honour to be one of the main guest speakers at the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth. This is a first time for me to be addressing a public gathering and I am grateful for the opportunity presented by this unique festival envisioned by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah and his Wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi. To all the young aspiring filmmakers here today – understand that we the future of the Arab and Muslim world will be sharing our stories that we produce, we direct and we act in. The stories that we decide to share will be inspiring, not just to the UAE or the Arab world, but the whole world (insha-allah). 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.

 

“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 with everything I had in me. 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 mine as a 16-year-old, and look where it got me.”

 

‘Chin Up’ animator JoeAnn Salmon – Wherever life takes me, I will always keep my chin up!

Following the screening of the 4:41 minute short animation ‘Chin Up’, which depicts the life of this British animator’s story from being 1 in 50,000 babies born with Treacher2 Collins Syndrome – a genetic disorder that leads to facial deformities, to currently living her dreams, the animator came up on stage and addressed the SIFF audience.

 

“I am so happy to be here at SIFF and so honoured to have the ‘Chin Up’ film be screened for all of you.  Through the film, I wanted to create an uplifting narrative of my story of becoming an animator. I am grateful for my love of art and storytelling as it brought me a lot of joy – even through hard times. My condition affects only one in 50,000 babies so its quite rare. And growing up with a very visible disability can be quite hard sometimes, as the thing you most want is to fit in. But, through my journey in filmmaking I have learnt that we all feel that way. As part of a creative community I get to celebrate my uniqueness. 

 

She said she was happy she stuck with the title of her film because, “What I once thought was my biggest weakness – my small chin – is actually my biggest strength, and has connected me with so many people that I could have never imagined.”

 

The film festival is organised by FUNN - Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children, and is taking place at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) in Sharjah until Friday, October 18.    

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