Sharjah, 10 October 2017
Within a brief span of five years since it was inaugurated, the Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) has gone from receiving 100 film submissions to an incredible 500 submissions this year that have come in from 31 countries around the world.
A truly international festival and a rich platform for cinema lovers, especially children, to explore the best films produced locally and globally, SICFF 2017 showcased a bouquet of productions representing themes of love, pride, acceptance, animal welfare and empathy on its second day – values crucial to the development of young minds.
Among the 30-plus films that were shown on day 2 of the festival, “Riceballs” by Shingo Usami, a TV, film and theatre luminary in Australia since 1998, was picked from SICFF’s International Short Films category. It is a heartwarming story about how a father and son deal with the death a wife and mother, and a single parent’s struggles while bringing up a son far away from home, and overcome it with their love and cultural identity – all firmly squeezed into a Japanese rice ball.
Encouraging more Emirati filmmakers to make movies for children has been one of SICFF’s main objectives. From zero submissions in 2013, the number of films selected from a large pool this year was 30. “Needs a Home” by young Emirati director and animation graduate of the Department of Mass Communications at the Higher Colleges of Technology, Alya Al Ali was featured under SICFF’s Student Films Category. A beautifully produced short animation about a homeless cat who wishes for a loving home and guardians, the narrative dealt with the pressing issue of animal welfare with a specific focus on how children can contribute to changing their lives for the better.
“Homesick”, a short animation by Cal Arts animation student Hanna King stirs up nostalgia when a young girl visits her ill grandfather, where she starts to wander around the house corners, retrieving the old memories and all the beautiful moments spent with her grandfather before his illness. Without a single word spoken in the film, the young filmmaker uses her deft character design skills to allow the audience to experience a range of emotions. Homesick is one of the official selections Palm Springs International Animation Festival (PSIAF) 2017.
Another short film in the category was “Charlie’s Buck Teeth” by young directors from the Supinfocom Rubika School in France, Esther Lalanne, Xing Yao, Valentin Sabin, Camille Verninas, and Chao Hao Yang, was about acceptance and self-confidence – a theme relatable to youngsters and they grow up facing several societal pressures at home and in their peer groups. The film is about a young boy Charlie with ridiculously big teeth who accidentally sets off on a magical journey.
GCC Short Films
“Blink”, and “The Stranger” were the two short films from the GCC selection showcased yesterday. Made by director Mortazah Annaser from Saudi Arabia and Maryam Alabbad from Kuwait, respectively, the films explore ways in which life can be beautiful even amid unassuming and sometimes even strange circumstances.
“The Box” was SICFF’s pick of the day from the Short Arab Films category. By Egyptian director, Mohamed Gowily, is a fascinating portrayal of the effects of television (the box) on an innocent young mind full of dreams.
From SICFF’s list of selected documentaries, Monday featured “Marhaba – Hello” by director, Emilio Marti, was born and raised in Valencia. The story revolves around Mohammed the young protagonist, who has been living in a refugee camp in Greece, after escaping the war in Syria. The film was produced by Marti with a group of children during a workshop at Chairsu Camp.
SICFF 2017 is hosting 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 50 training workshops covering an array of topics on cinema and the visual arts, which will continue at other locations in Sharjah up until November 16.
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.