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Premiere de MDX Studios Student Film Festival highlights future stars of global cinema


Middlesex University Dubai’s Film department rolled out the red carpet for its student filmmakers on Wednesday 27th April 2022, when the University’s first Student Film Festival returned after two years to Roxy Cinemas at City Walk.

Named Premiere de MDX Studios in honour of the Film department’s fully equipped on-campus production studio, the prestigious event provided an unmissable opportunity for seven BA Honours Film students and graduates from the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 to prepare their final year submissions for theatrical release. Over 120 students, parents, faculty, family members and friends joined in the festivities to show their support.

MDX Studios, spearheaded by Film Lecturer Afroz Nawaf, offers an innovative script-to-screen approach to education that is unique among Film and Media Schools in the UAE and across the region. Students who join the University’s Film programme are put through their paces in an intensive and engaging media production environment from their first day.

Combining academic theory and exposure to real-life film sets and industry projects, students develop the vital storytelling and technical skills needed to succeed in this fast-paced sector, such as screenwriting, directing, editing, casting, location scouting and budget management. This approach provides a fantastic platform to gain vital industry experience that ensures students stand out to employers when they begin their careers.

The result of this immersive curriculum was on full display during the Student Film Festival, when each filmmaker took the spotlight to explain the inspiration and creative process behind their submission. Many of the emotive and powerful films were inspired by the students’ personal stories and touched on important topics and societal challenges such as mental health, the loss of a loved one, arranged marriages, and more.

The films also provide a unique perspective on the journey of a film student during the pandemic, with their quality and creativity a testament to the fact incredible films can be produced using the most basic of resources. Over the past two years, every student was forced to work under challenging conditions, with many unable to gain regular access to the on-campus equipment and technology due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Neha Lalani, Class of 2021 graduate, won the Audience Choice Award to raucous applause for her film Swan Song, which tells the story of passionate but secretive musician Nina, who must hide her gift from skeptical parents. Neha was also named Outstanding Student for the Class of 2021.

A second double award winner, Vignesh Hariharan Nair from the Class of 2022, was named Outstanding Student 2022. Vignesh also won the award for Best Lighting & Cinematography 2022 for his film The Last High that explores a young man’s fight against addiction.

In an incredible turn of events, representatives in attendance from longstanding industry partners of MDX Studios Warner Brothers Middle East and Shooting Stars awarded three current BA Honours Film students with Special Mention – Rising Stars in Film Production awards. Nida Khan, Jatin Kalwani and Alizay Rizwan will receive internship opportunities to learn about film distribution, intellectual property management and licensing as part of their prize.

All award recipients are:

  • Outstanding Student 2020: Aily Primanita Prasetyo
  • Best Film 2020: 350 directed by Pierre Ghaly and produced by Abdullah Al Amri
  • Outstanding Student 2021: Neha Lalani
  • Best Film 2021: A Minute Late directed by Michael Mantchombe and produced by Nahi Ahmadieh
  • Outstanding Student 2022: Vignesh Hariharan Nair
  • Best Lighting & Cinematography 2022: Vignesh Hariharan Nair
  • Best Directing 2022: Evelyn Jude Rodrigues
  • Audience Choice Award: Swan Song directed by Neha Lalani
  • Warner Brothers Middle East & Shooting Stars Special Mentions - Rising Stars in Film Production: Nida Khan (1st year), Jatin Kalwani (2nd year), Alizay Rizwan (3rd year)

The Middlesex University Dubai community wishes a wholehearted congratulations and well done to every student who showed their films and to the production crews who participated to make these films so special.

Learn more about this year’s Student Film Festival here.

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