15th August, 2015


Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s program a success; first year alumni already working with Documentary Department

ABU DHABI, August 24, 2015: Six budding filmmakers have been selected from a large field of high-quality candidates to take part in the second Arab Film Studio documentary program.

The documentaries arm of the AFS program, Image Nation’s amateur short film competition, was a huge success in its first year – with some participants going straight into film industry work upon completion of the course.

The films produced at the culmination of the initiative have received critical acclaim, with the participants’ work continuing to be showcased at film festivals all over the world.

Such was the quality of the candidates last year, three of them – Farah Diab, Tanya Daud and eventual winner Amena Al Nowais – moved on to projects at Image Nation. Amena and Tanya are both working within Image Nation’s documentary department, while Farah is undertaking an internship on a feature film project.

The competition returned last week for its second year with the aim to tap undiscovered talent and give aspiring filmmakers the tools they need to carve out a successful career in the industry.

This year’s participants are: Hind Abdullah, 23, and Nour Al Harmoodi, 22, both Emirati; Arkus, 29, from India; Alawi Shareef, 24, from Comoros; Rana Mohammad, 22, from Egypt; and Mohammad Sakkijha, 27, from Jordan.

Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation, said: “We are committed to supporting the film industry in this region, and those who aspire to be part of it. Last year we saw some incredible talents nurtured and developed, and the work they are now doing within the industry is testament to their tenacity and the quality of our program.

“The UAE film industry is growing and it’s important that we equip our young talent with the expertise to become the great filmmakers of the future. We received an overwhelming number of submissions this year, and I think the overall calibre of this year’s participants is the best we’ve seen so far.”

Last year’s winner, Amena Al Nowais, who was awarded an internship with the Image Nation documentary division, said: “Participating in the Arab Film Studio documentary program was very empowering and helped me to really grown as a filmmaker. I’m very grateful to Image Nation for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to make my dream of becoming a filmmaker come true.”

The 20-week AFS Docs course, which was created in association with twofour54 and Anasy Media Productions, focuses specifically on the non-fiction field of production. It has three phases and is designed to give participants a 360-degree insight into the lifecycle of a film project.

The course includes practical demonstrations, screenings and roundtable discussions. The goal is to equip the students with skills such as research, pre-production, budgeting, writing, interviewing and editing – all necessary tools for producing a documentary film.

Alicia Gonzalez, head of training and development for Image Nation, added: “This year’s participants have already demonstrated talent and enthusiasm for the art of filmmaking and we look forward to seeing how their skills and knowledge develop during the program.”

The program features teaching and masterclasses from some of the industry’s biggest names locally and internationally, including the BAFTA-Award winner Tom Roberts.

“I absolutely love being involved with Arab Film Studio”, said Roberts who directed Image Nation’s critically acclaimed documentary Every Last Child, about efforts to eradicate polio in Pakistan. “These people are highly motivated and it’s always easy to work with motivated people – the energy they bring to the program is fantastic and it energizes me.

“The standard of films produced last year was very high, and we expect this year to be even higher.”

Roberts’ screen credits include a recent drama-documentary on Nelson Mandela for the UK’s ITV, and In Transit, his first dramatic feature film, starring John Malkovich.

The Arab Film Studio program began in 2012, originally as an amateur narrative filmmaking competition, but branched out into documentaries last year. The multi-disciplinary training program gives participants access to industry advice from leading film professionals.

AFS Docs complements Image Nation’s growing documentary division, whose slate includes the high-profile feature documentary He Named Me Malala, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), set to release in UAE theaters later this year.