30th November, 2017


Exclusive awards ceremony held at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi on Tuesday evening

Last night, the regional film industry recognised future talent as Image Nation Abu Dhabi, one of the leading media and entertainment companies in the Middle East, crowned the winners of its sixth annual short film program, Arab Film Studio.


Two participants were awarded the coveted ‘Best Film’ award in the Documentary and Narrative mediums. They were judged by a panel of regional filmmaking elite including Emirati film directors Nahla Al Fahad (The Tainted Veil), Ali Mostafa (The Worthy) and Majid Al Ansari (Zinzana). The night also gave special mention to two students in the ‘Best Producing’ category, as well as commending an assembly of Young Filmmakers.


Nabil Chowdhary, 33, from United Kingdom scooped the AFS Narrative award for his sci-fi thriller THE REPLACEMENT.


“I am so happy to have won this award! It was a lot of hard work, but it was a great experience and I am so glad it has come to a winning end. You learn so much on the program over the months and I feel confident now that if I want to go into the film industry or work on a feature film, I have the tools and knowledge to do so”, said Nabil.


The AFS Documentary title went to Swapna Kurup, 36, from India, for her documentary short RANAPAKHARA. In a community centre in Dubai, Indian classical dancer Vonita Singh applies her artform to bring back movement in the lives of people affected by Parkinson’s disease.


Commenting on her win, Swapna said, “I am so surprised to have won as all the four films were very strong, but I am so happy. Before the program I had one idea in my mind of how a documentary should be, but throughout the process I was exposed to so many different types of films which was a big eye-opener for me. It was a great learning experience and I hope that winning will enable me to get more funding for different projects that I want to pursue and that I can keep making more films!”


Winners of the ‘Best Film’ will receive an invaluable head start into the regional film industry. Nabil will undertake a full-time internship with the Image Nation Narrative department, whilst Swapna will commence an internship with the Documentary department.


Two additional awards were given at the AFS Awards Ceremony, including ‘Special Mentions in Producing’ for Zahra Mirza producer of short BACK TALK, and Fahad Shaikh producer of documentary short M1-KO.


There was also recognition for the eleven Emirati ‘Young Filmmakers’ who participated in a three-week summer workshop in partnership with NYU Abu Dhabi. The students learned about the essence of film production from the region’s top industry professionals, before making their own one-minute films at the campuses’ state-of-the-art-facilities.


Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation, said “I’m very proud to see how the Arab Film Studio program has matured over the last 6 years.  Countless aspiring filmmakers have realized their ambitions through this program, and now the industry is recognizing it as an incubator for fresh talent in the UAE.  This plays a crucial part in Image Nation’s commitment to building the foundations of an industry in the UAE, since a robust talent pool is essential to our local productions.”


Hosted at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, the audience was treated to a red-carpet reception attended by special guests and dignitaries, followed by a screening of all the nominated films from the programs.


Prof. Eric Fouache, Vice Chancellor at Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi commented: “Hosting this year’s Arab Film Studio Awards fit perfectly with our mandate as an educational institute that appreciates and recognizes young talent. Sorbonne Abu Dhabi continuously works on nurturing talent and encouraging innovation within our community through extending the necessary support”.


Arab Film Studio is a short film program that takes finalists on a seven-month filmmaking journey that mirrors the real process of developing and producing a film. The competition provides all the tools and knowledge a budding filmmaker needs to kick-start a career in film, delivered by the best trainers and industry professionals.


It was created by Image Nation in 2011 in partnership with twofour54 to develop UAE nationals’ and residents’ filmmaking skills. The program now consists of four dedicated specialisms; AFS Narrative, AFS Documentary, AFS Scriptwriting and AFS Young Filmmakers.


Past participants have gone on to full-time positions within Image Nation as well as having their AFS films showcased at Academy Award-qualifying film festivals. Most recently, 28 AFS films have reached over 160 selections for film festivals across the world including Beirut International Film Festival, LA Film Festival and Melbourne Film Festival.


Next month, Image Nation in partnership with the Dubai Film Market will be awarding the winner of its AFS Scriptwriting competition at the Dubai International Film Festival.


Image Nation is still accepting submissions for their AFS Narrative program 2018, closing on December 2nd. To find out more about Arab Film Studio and its programs, visit