On September 12 and 13, 2012, the Arab Studies Program, along with Middle East Studies, endorsed the UAE Embassy and the School of Communication’s film festival at Greenberg Theatre.
The first night featured the film Sea Shadow, directed by Nawaf al-Janahi, a somber coming-of-age story set in a rapidly urbanizing region of the Emirates. Following the viewing, director al-Janahi discussed the film’s significance on a personal level while he watches his society change, but also his own journey into film-making and his return to the Emirates. In the brief time since his return in 1999, al-Janahi has witnessed a discernible opening in the field of national filmmakers.
The second night featured two short films, The Philosopher and The Turtle. The Philosopher follows the journey of a Frenchman who decides to give up his earthly possessions and free will to attain freedom. In the end, he realizes that the most valuable possessions in life are not status or wealth but friendships. The Turtle is of a different genre of short films produced by the government of Dubai to celebrate the country’s history and its future via telling the story of a young boy on a campaign to save a sea turtle from choking on a piece of plastic. The film intends to raise awareness among the youth to be responsible for their environment.
The discussion after the screenings was moderated by Brigid Maher of the School of Communication with a panel made up of Image Nation CEO Michael Garin, Arab Studies Director Randa Serhan, and the two filmmakers. Serhan drew connections between all three films shown at the festival, noting the paradoxical themes of anxiety and hope present in each film and how each is aimed at targeting a young audience.
“As a sociologist who grew up in the Gulf, I sense that there is a level of anxiety about rapid change and its effect mainly on youth,” Serhan said. “I would not read it as a fear of change but rather as a fear of the unknown known,” the unknown known being the rapid transformation of cities like Kuwait City and Dubai. The festival drew an eclectic audience, from filmmakers, to students, and senior members of the AU community.