Virtual Emirati Film Week: 7 UAE-made films to watch, from ‘Mommy’ to ‘Scales’

The weekend is a good time to catch up on a few local cinematic gems.

Starting from Friday, Virtual Emirati Film Week will highlight seven must-see films by directors who are either from the UAE or live in the country. The films vary in subject matter and style, ranging from the supernatural world of Nayla Al Khaja to the rib-tickling social commentary of Ali F Mostafa.

The event is presented as part of the UAE-Korea Cultural Dialogue, an initiative that began in 2020 and is aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries. It is organised by the Ministry of Culture and Youth and South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Virtual Emirati Film Week is one of several events held under the initiative that showcases Emirati and South Korean culture. Taking place until Thursday, June 24, the online event is held in partnership with Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Twofour54, the Korean-Arab Society and the Korean Cultural Centre.

Here’s a look at the three feature films and four shorts that will be screened on the website of the Ministry of Culture and Youth during the week-long event.

‘Ummi’ (2020)

Ummi (Mommy) may be Emirati filmmaker Ahmed Almulla’s first professional film but the light-hearted short will leave you in stitches. The seven-minute work revolves around a date between young a Emirati couple Suhail and Leila. Things seem to be going well until Suhail’s mother calls and tries to control his every move.

‘In The Shadows’ (2019)

In The Shadows is a short documentary that recreates a family situation when one member is confined in a crowded detention centre for almost a month.

Directed by Mildred Garcerant, a Venezuelan filmmaker who has been living in Dubai since 2009, the 10-minute film merges testimonials from family members with evocative monochrome shots of people huddled in a prison cell.

The film is as haunting as it is thought-provoking and won Garcerant the 2019 Arab Film Studio Award for Best Documentary Short Film.

‘The Shadow’ (2019)

Nayla Al Khaja, the UAE’s first female filmmaker, is a master of using supernatural suspense to tell a deeper story and confront societal expectations.

The Shadow is a testament to that. The short film revolves around Maryam, a mother trying to save her 9-year-old son who is suffering from a mysterious paranormal phenomenon. Seeking advice, she takes her to a mullah, who then asks her about her faith and what she has done to cause this.

‘Sayidat Al Bahr’ (2019)

The Abu Dhabi-made Sayidat Al Bahr (Scales) took six years to finish but Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen told Variety magazine in 2019 that she made it “the way I wanted, as feminist as I wanted”.

Scales tells the story of Hayat, a young girl living in a village with a tradition of sacrificing female children to mysterious creatures in the sea. When her time to be sacrificed comes, she rejects this dystopian reality and decides to forge her own path. The feature raked in several accolades, including being named best film in the Asian feature competition at the 2019 Singapore International Film Festival.

‘Shabab Sheyab’ (2018)

Directed by Iraqi director Yasir Al Yasiri, feature film Shabab Sheyab (On Borrowed Time) tells the story of four friends who are spending their senior years in an assisted living facility in Dubai.

Realising they are losing their zest for life, the friends decide it’s time to break out of the facility after one of them inherits a large fortune, and embark on a side-splitting adventure across Dubai.

‘From A to B’ (2014)

From City of Life filmmaker Ali F Mostafa comes a feature-length comedy that takes viewers on an outrageous road trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut.

Spurred by sense of guilt over the death of his friend, Omar decides to embark on a trip to mark what would have been his friend’s 25th birthday. He is joined by two of his estranged high school pals: Jay, a wannabe DJ, and Ramy, a social media activist with around 700 Twitter followers.

The trio drive towards Beirut, cutting through Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria on the way, in a journey hindered by several wrong turns, breakdowns and, well, a camel.

‘Sabeel’ (2010)

Emirati filmmaker Khalid Al Mahmood’s Sabeel is a touching story told with tableaux-esque elegance.

Set in the mountains away from city life, the 10-minute film tells the story of two brothers who sell vegetables from their farm by the side of a main road, using the little money they make to care for their grandmother.