Warehouse421, Arab Film Studio join hands to showcase works by women directors

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The Arab Film Studio (AFS), which is part of Image Nation, has for the past decade played a key role in raising the profile of the UAE’s rapidly evolving film industry, positioning Abu Dhabi as a creative hub for the region, and helping the region’s next generation of filmmakers to get behind the camera and tell their stories.

As AFS celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Abu Dhabi’s arts center Warehouse421 recently organized a special screening of five outstanding Emirati female directors graduating from the AFS Narrative and Documentary programs, to coincide with the Emirati Women’s Day.

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The five films screened were by Amna Al Nowais, Sarah Al Hashimi, Hind Abdullah, Mariam Al Awadhi, and Raihana Al Hashmi -- all alumni of the Arab Film Studio Narrative and Documentary programs, which are initiatives by Image Nation Abu Dhabi that help the region’s next generation of filmmakers get behind the camera to tell their stories.

The panel discussion on women's cinema at Warehouse421, Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Supplied)
The panel discussion on women's cinema at Warehouse421, Abu Dhabi, UAE. (Supplied)

The screening was followed by a panel with two directors and an experienced Emirati filmmaker discussing the female role in the local and international media industry, moderated by Alma Al Mubrak, the Head of Public Diplomacy at Image Nation Abu Dhabi.

Dana al-Mazrouei, Manager of Education Initiatives, Warehouse421, spoke to Al Arabiya English on the role of the Arab Film Studio and about Emirati women film makers: “We joined forces with the wonderful team at Arab Film Studio to bring together a unique and curated selection of narrative, documentary and experimental short films by emerging Emirati female filmmakers. The idea was to give these promising female filmmakers a platform on Emirati Women’s Day to showcase their films, all of which feature Emirati female protagonists.”

“We wanted to design a program that is both a platform for Emirati women filmmakers and gives audiences the opportunity to view these films and respond to them in the process; therefore pushing forward important and critical conversations around themes that these films address.”

The audience at the film screening at Warehouse421. (Supplied)
The audience at the film screening at Warehouse421. (Supplied)

The criteria for selecting the short films by emerging Emirati female filmmakers for screening at Warehouse 421 was those works address social and cultural issues, and histories from the UAE. “We wanted to present works that resonate with communities in the UAE and the region, and that ask important questions around identity, history, and family relationships,” al-Mazrouei said.

“We’ve seen the role of women in the film and media industry grow and expand with the support of creative programs and initiatives like those of Image Nation Abu Dhabi, and our own programs that nurture the work of emerging artists, filmmakers, writers and creatives in general,” Al-Mazrouei said.
According to al-Mazrouei, the creative industry in the UAE has really flourished and matured in recent years, and “we see that youth and younger generations, and especially young women, are finding creative careers more accessible.”

As a cultural institution, Warehouse421 plays an important role in continuing to nurture that kind of engagement by supporting their work through programs and initiatives that give them a platform and allow audiences to view and respond to the ideas and messages presented in these works.

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