The Muhr Gulf Short category is once again returning to the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) to provide a supporting platform for filmmakers from the region. Celebrated for reflecting diversity and recognizing the expertise of Gulf filmmakers, the Muhr Gulf Short category provides an integral opportunity for directors to shine in the international spotlight and provide an ongoing catalyst for the growing GCC cinema.
Known for bringing the best of regional cinema to the fore, this 2016 lineup of inventive short films are to raise the competitive stakes with each original short bringing a unique expression of culture sure to enrapture audiences at the Festival.
Qatari director Hend Fakhroo begins the diverse lineup with the world premiere of ‘The Waiting Room’. Based on her own background influenced by her Egyptian grandfather, acclaimed director and actor, Mohamed Tawfiq, the story explores two families from contrasting cultures who find themselves sharing a room in a hospital. With just a thin curtain to separate them, two young women form an unexpected friendship as they realise they have more similarities than first anticipated.
Joining ‘The Waiting Room’ is the world premiere of ‘The Republic of T.M.’, from Danish-Iraqi director Masar Joudi Ajil Sohail. The short delves into the world of a young male whose intense thoughts are leading him to become increasingly alienated from his community. Taha flees to a woodland area in an attempt to disconnect from his usual surroundings, however his overpowering internal voice, creates even more anguish for the young man.
Making his DIFF debut is award-winning director Fahad Aljoudi with his engrossing film ‘Arabian Swan’. Telling the compelling story of Noor, a girl whose love for dance could threaten her life, as she knows it. Noor’s brother prohibits her from practicing dance, even threatening to send her back to their homeland of Saudi Arabia. Beautifully captured by Aljoudi, the film explores Noor as she is torn between her love of dance and family loyalty.
Kae Bahar is due to take audiences at DIFF on an emotive journey with the awaited debut of ‘A Special Guest’. Exploring how love can surpass generations and cultures, it follows ten-year-old Ako who is being looked after by an elderly English couple whilst his mother seeks employment. With haunting memories of war that disturb his waking life, the young boy becomes more than a new guest for the pair.
Joining Bahar is the talented Ali Kareem Obaid whose first short film ‘Hassan in Wonderland’ won the Van Gogh Award for the best family film. Known for his activism, his new short ‘Abraham’ enjoying its world premiere at DIFF explores the religious dichotomies in the Arab region. Set around a Christian family forced to pay tax, or jizya, for non-Muslin citizens in the regions occupied by ISIS, they face a greater fear when trying to protect the future of their only daughter. Seeming to find a solution by marrying her to her brother, the consequences of this action may be far more devastating than the family had presumed.
Diving deep to the core of the industry, the world premiere of ‘A Town Called Theocracy’ by Saudi Arabian director Jehad Al-Khateeb focuses on a forlorn projectionist, Leo. The oppressive laws of the theocratic regime introduce strict restrictions on screening films, meaning the world of cinema is dying out. Discouraged by this ban, disheartened Leo resorts to playing amateur films in his deserted theatre. However, when a woman traveling through town stumbles upon the screenings, a new passion might shine in Leo’s life.
Since Qatari director Amal Al Muftah’s previous film ‘Split Second’ won the Best National Award and People’s Choice Award at the Northwestern Film Festival in 2013, the highly anticipated world premiere of her second short ‘Smicha’ starring Ali Mirza is set to attract international triumph this year at DIFF. An emotional tale of a grandfather who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and how the disease tears at the foundation of his relationship with his beloved granddaughter.
Closing out the first Muhr Gulf Short lineup is the world premiere of ‘The Rooster’, from Bahraini filmmaker Salman Yusuf. As the proud owner of a prize rooster Salem is hungry to defeat every single competitor in the controversial blood sport. The story delves into the true source of Salem’s driven obsession, wondering if whether his taunting of main opponent Bu Jasim is a reactionary outlet to his own tainted marriage.
DIFF’s Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali commented on the Gulf lineup: “This year DIFF has been overwhelmed with thousands of exceptional entrants submitting creative and diverse films into the Muhr Gulf Short competition. This niche category has an Arab soul and fosters the growth of both budding talent and the film production industry here in the Middle East. Celebrating and sharing these cultural nuances and the wealth of Arab cinema is at the core of the Festival and we cannot wait to share these stories with our audiences at the 13th edition.”
Salah Sermini, DIFF Programmer, added: “As our audiences are growing each year, it is really encouraging that the Muhr Gulf Short category provides a rare opportunity for regional filmmakers and wider audiences to share their love of this medium of film. This year’s lineup of innovative cinema will not only provide an unmatched opportunity for the filmmakers but also entertain and educate audiences through their unique, vibrant storytelling.”