A panel discussion titled "Independent Films" held yesterday evening at the 8th Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2021), offered attendees a unique opportunity to reflect on the evolving role of independent films and their impact on regional cinema.

Big names in the UAE and regional industry participated in the virtually held discussion. They were Khaled Al Mahmoud, award-winning Emirati filmmaker who studied filmmaking in the United States, and whose work has been shown at prestigious festivals worldwide; Egyptian director, writer and producer, Sherif Elbendary, whose short film "Curfew" was shown at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2011; filmmaker and creative consultant Mahmoud Kaabour, based in Dubai and Berlin whose multi-lingual productions have been shown at top-tier festivals worldwide, and Hana Kazim, Manager of Local Film and TV at Image Nation Abu Dhabi.

Renowned Emirati actor and director, Nawaf Al Janahi, moderated the session. His feature film "Sea Shadow" (2011) travelled to 27 countries, which is considered the most remarkable tour for an Emirati feature film to date.

Talking about the need to popularise the culture of private funding to promote this genre, Kazim remarked, "Independent cinema thrives with private funding which does not exist in studio films. I really want to achieve this for the UAE and the region as I chart my journey towards becoming a maker of independent films. These films attract important filmmakers who deal with topics that take our culture and our creativity to the rest of the world."

Elbendary said independent films mean directors have creative freedom because they can make the film without any influence. They have the luxury of selecting the topic and type of production and setting the film’s goals.

Al Mahmoud agreed with Elbendary’s view and said he relates the extent of creative freedom in independent films to the source of funding. He said if there was one source of funding, it might force the director to do something that might jeopardise the film’s independence.

Defining independent films, Kaabour likened the process of coming up with an idea for an independent film to a PhD candidate who chose a thesis topic. The difference, according to him, is that a film is the collective output of groups. Each of them is held accountable for a certain aspect of the film.

In the upcoming days of SIFF 2021, film and media experts from the region and across the world will lead more panel talks on topics as exciting and varied as the role of women in cinema, the future of the film industry, the role of festivals in promoting movies, and the evolution of animation in production.

The festival concludes on 15th October, 2021, and the entire programme comprising 80 film screenings including six world premieres, 34 workshops and five panel discussions can be attended online for free by registering on this link:

Source: Emirates News Agency