Women in the UAE – especially young Emirati females – are a bold and blaring contradiction to Middle Eastern stereotypes of subservient, oppressed beings with no distinct voice.
One such woman – Eman Talal Alsayed – leads the charge with her original and intimate scripts and narratives with her work at the Arab Film Studio. Having completed Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s six month training program, and at the very beginning of what one can assume is a long successful career, Eman doesn’t shy away from what others tiptoe around: the real issues.
“I like to cover societal problems and stories specific to the UAE and to women,” Eman shares. Her narrative short The Choice, which won ‘Best Film’ in AFS Narrative 2016, follows the life of Lauren who travels to the UAE for the first time to meet her long-lost family and settle her father’s inheritance.
With the same theme, Eman took home an AED 100,000 film grant in December at the Muhr Awards for her script Blanket. It is a story of 15 year old Mahra, who is forced into a marriage in fear of possible scandal and finds the result difficult beyond imagination. She says:
Blanket is a script based on true events that happened here in the UAE, it deals with child marriage, traditions, family shame, and Down Syndrome. Unfortunately I can’t reveal more details yet, but you will just have to wait to see when the film comes out!
Sure to be charged with commentary and realism, Eman seems to understand the importance of homegrown films in culture and communication in the UAE. She believes the film industry is growing with filmmakers in the region breaking the ground with original ideas, giving the example of DIFF’s Arabic films selection this year and more specifically, Ali Mostafa’s The Worthy.
AFS’s program in encouraging these filmmakers can’t be undervalued. According to Eman, her time at AFS helped her deal with a very specific message delivery issue she encountered earlier. She says she used to ‘spoon-feed the audience’ and the program helped her step back and prevent that.
They even helped her pitch ideas as a writer:
“During DIFF, we took part in a two-day workshop with a pitching coach who taught us key skills on how to pitch a script to the judges. Almost all filmmakers no matter how experienced they are have to pitch scripts to studios or directors, so it’s a great skill to have.”
While Eman finds the short film format challenging with its brevity for smart messages, we can soon expect Eman to begin crafting feature-length films, she says. Something to look forward to.
AFS Scriptwriting is a film writing program from Image Nation Abu Dhabi, in partnership with the Dubai Film Market (DFM), the trade arm of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, this site is worth a visit: www.arabfilmstudio.ae