More unique and engaging movies for kids and the kids at heart are lined up for the six-day festival.
Young movie lovers were treated to an evening packed with inspiring, feel-good films on Sunday, October 13, as the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2019) was officially inaugurated.
One short animation, ‘Chin Up’, told them the story of its director JoAnne Salmon who has never allowed her rare genetic condition to stop her from going places, while another film featured a ‘travelling cat’.
Both captured the hearts of the crowd, especially the children who enjoyed every second of the show.
“The impressive turnout of the youth 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 the SIFF to include youth starting this year,” Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, director of FUNN and the SIFF, said in her keynote speech at the event.
More unique and engaging movies for kids and the kids at heart are lined up for the six-day festival that will run until Friday. In fact, the number of entries for this year’s film competitions was three times higher than the recorded number in the 2018 edition.
Aptly themed ‘Films Inspired by Books’, the fest is part of Sharjah’s year-long celebration of its recognition as Unesco World Book Capital 2019.
Kuwaiti actor Abdul Rahman Al Aqel, who was also at launch, hailed the SIFF as an extraordinary event.
“This platform is shaping the youth’s future by engaging them with the medium of cinema and by showing them its possibilities. We are proud of this festival, which is paving the way for several new generations to have a brighter tomorrow,” he said.
Emirati filmmaker and journalist Nujoom Al Ghanem, another guest, added: “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.”
Inspiring the next filmmakers
One of the main guest speakers at the film fest’s opening was the 18-year-old Saudi Arabian actor Abdullah Ali, who has been praised for his lead role in the movie ‘Born a King’.
He took the podium and shared his story, hoping to be inspired the youngsters in the audience.
“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.”
He added that “the future of Arab cinema is in the hands of the youth”.
“The stories that we decide to share will be inspiring, not just to the UAE or the Arab world, but the whole world.”
Why you should always ‘keep your chin up’
With her extraordinary story, British animator Joanne Salmon touched the hearts of everyone at the opening event.
Through her short animation Chin Up, Salmon told her story from being one in 50,000 babies born with a genetic disorder that results in facial deformities – to currently living her dreams.
“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.
“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,” Salmon said.
She said she was happy she stuck with the title of her film, explaining: “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.”
World’s biggest photography lesson held
Sharjah has smashed a Guinness World Record title for the ‘Largest Photography Lesson’ after FUNN – the Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children – hosted 404 students in a 30-minute photography class at the Sharjah Cultural Palace.
The class was organised in collaboration with Canon Middle East, who brought in 404 cameras to the lesson. FUNN managed to beat the previous record-holder with 250 students.
The FUNN photography lesson is part of the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2019).