30th May, 2015


Amena Al Nowais, 26, scoops Arab Film Studio Documentary Award for her hard-hitting short film.

Abu Dhabi, May 20, 2015: A young Emirati filmmaker has scooped a prestigious award for her powerful documentary exploring the taboo subject of female circumcision in the Middle East.

Amena Al Nowais, 26, received the ‘Best Documentary’ award in Image Nation’s first short documentary competition for her film, Omnia, a first-hand account of a young Egyptian woman coming to terms with the fact she was circumcised as a child.

Amena competed against five other finalists in the Arab Film Studio Documentary competition (AFS Docs), all who tackled a range of fascinating subjects – from the story of a young Emirati artist looking for approval from his father (Made of Clay), to an account of an ethnic Rohingya Muslim living as a refugee in Dubai (The Absentees).

Amena commented: “I am so happy to have won Best Film and it was fantastic hearing the audience’s reactions. Omnia, the focus of my documentary, was in the audience this evening, and seeing her face light up when my film came on was worth it all. It was such a wonderful night.”

Image Nation plans to offer internships and work opportunities to select AFS Docs finalists.  Amena Al Nowais recently joined as a researcher on a new documentary project in development, and prior to the AFS program she participated in Image Nation’s international program Chance of a Lifetime.

Amena continued: “Participating in the Arab Film Studio documentary program was very empowering and I have grown as a filmmaker thanks to it. I’d also like to thank Image Nation for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to make my dream of becoming a filmmaker come true.”

Scandar Copti, Oscar-nominated filmmaker and a judge on the panel for AFS Docs said: “I applaud each and every one of the final filmmakers for choosing a difficult topic and handling them so beautifully.

“Amena is a very worthy winner and you can tell she is a natural born storyteller – she has a very bright future in filmmaking ahead of her.”

The Arab Film Studio program began in 2012, originally as an amateur narrative filmmaking competition, but branched out into documentaries this year. The multi-disciplinary training program is held in partnership with twofour54 Tadreeb, during which participants have access to industry advice from leading film professionals.

Alicia Gonzalez, head of training and development for Image Nation, added: ”This year’s competition was fierce, with so many fantastic participants, it was difficult to pick the winners.

“The feedback from the judges was overwhelming. We have uncovered more than a few promising local documentary filmmakers and we look forward to seeing how they progress with the tools and knowledge the program has provided each and every one of them.”

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), and the documentary Every Last Child, which tackled the Polio crisis in Pakistan and opens in U.S. cinemas this summer.

Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation, said: “Arab Film Studio has always been a great place for budding filmmakers to hone their talents and learn all about the industry. AFS Docs has been a great addition to the filmmaking community, giving them a powerful outlet to tell real stories that resonate in our region and culture.”

Due to the success of this year’s addition, Image Nation will renew the documentary program for a second semester.  The program will begin this August and applications are now open at

List of Winners:

  • Best Film: Omnia – Amena Al Nowais
  • Best Cinematography: Absentees – Tanya Shakil Daud
  • Best Sound Design: Shaikh Al Musaffah – Waleed Al Madani
  • Best Edit: Made of Clay – Fayssal Bin Sahli

List of Final Films:

  • The Absentees – Tanya Daud (Pakistan)
    A story of thousands of Rohingyas, told through the voice of Raees – a refugee in Dubai. A story of identity, discrimination and the yearning for home.
  • Omnia – Amna Al Nowais (UAE)
    Omnia, a young Egyptian woman, is still struggling with an incident from her childhood that left her with no sense of her body.
  • The Sheikh of Mussafah – Waled Al Madani (Syria)
    Taking place in Mussafah, the story follows an unstable relationship between a father and his son, born and raised amongst the ruins of damaged engines and mistreated cars.
  • Cross The Line – Khaled Bin Sahli (UAE)
    Relentlessly trying to pursue his dreams and aspirations of becoming a Cosplay designer, Essa Al Bastaki gets pulled back into this world from his fantasyland, with his father trying to control his future and life decisions.
  • Made of Clay – Fayssal Bin Sahli (UAE)
    Ahmed, a passionate young stop-motion artist. Ahmed wants to pursue his dream, but finds it difficult to do so because of his father’s views on his art. In an attempt to gain his father’s acceptance, Ahmed unravels the truth behind his dissatisfaction.
  • Skin – Farah Diab (Lebanon)
    Skin takes us below the surface as we go on the journey with a young American teacher that is finally coming to terms with how she feels about the way she looks by showing her true self 10 years later.