By Prathap Thiyagaraj
It is the 29th of November and 40 first and second year Media students are ready to embark on a journey that is sure to be both informative and fun. The destination for our Field Trip was Abu Dhabi where the 2013 Abu Dhabi film festival was being held. Our programme coordinator Mrs. Evelyn Stubbs who was also our chaperone for the event. When the bus was fully boarded and everyone was accounted for and a head count was performed, we departed for Abu Dhabi.
One and a half hours later we drove through the massive gates of the Emirates Palace. The first impression that anyone who enters the grounds of the palace gets is one of grandeur. As soon as we got out of the bus and our limbs were given a good stretch we entered the Emirates palace. This luxurious hotel blends Arabian splendour with the latest technology to create a magical and memorable experience.
After a short tour of the palace we proceeded to where the special events of the Film festival were held. After we filled ourselves up with delicious refreshments courtesy of the Film Festival we proceeded to our first special event. It was a workshop with award winning producer Catherine Dussart she hails from France and has produced over 20 movies; she guided us aspiring producers on the process of film making from development to post production. She explained how her own personal vision shaped the films she was producing and the impact a producer has on the film as a whole. At the end of the interview there was a question and answer round where the audience could ask her questions. Catherine’s interaction did not end there though, after the workshop she mingled with the Middlesex students and gave us more insight into the movie world explaining its pitfalls and high points.
Then followed a delicious lunch with more opportunities for networking with filmmakers.
The second special event was aptly called Cinematic Debuts: A Spotlight on Arab Directors’ First Films. The panel consisted of Mohammed Rouda a film critic, Mostafa Messnaoui who is a writer and philosopher, Mohammad Malas a film director, Ferid Boughedor a film director and screenwriter and last but not least Intishal Al Timimi the moderator for the event. This was the third year that the Abu Dhabi film festival concentrates on Arab cinema and the pioneers of this field. The preferred language choice was Arabic of course but there were translators with headphones given to all non Arabic speakers to understand the questions asked. The panel truly felt as if they were old friends reuniting and sharing stories over some tea. The directors explained their experiences with the Arab cinema and how hard it was to first come on to the scene and have to work around various problems such as a large amount of red tape around topics considered as taboo in the region. Overall the event was very nice and had a good flow to it consisting of the serious side of cinema as well as the lighter side where jokes were cracked and we all had a good hearty laugh. The end of the workshop once again featured a question and answer session. Once of the questions about the negative representation of Arabs in Hollywood films resulted in a 15 minute discussion on the need for Arabs to make excellent films representing
Once the Last workshop was at a close we filed out of the hall and out of the golden palace and to our bus. The Film Festival was finally at a close and we boarded the bus to leave Abu Dhabi behind and return to Dubai and our Alma mater Middlesex. On the ride back I’m sure I was not the only one recalling the wisdom that had been imparted to us. We left the film festival with fond memories hoping to return again next year and to be exposed to more giants in the film industry.