Diff 2017: Nujoom Al Ganem talks ‘Sharp Tools’

Prolific Emirati filmmaker returns this year with a film about contemporary art in the UAE

Sanjay Shankar, YJA Reporter
09:53 December 13, 2017

Nujoom Al Ganem is a prolific Emirati filmmaker who’s brought her many works to the Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) over the years. With plenty of creative experience, she shares a look back at her journey, provides insight into her creative process, and talks about what the industry has to offer.

Her latest film, Sharp Tools (2017), is an interpersonal documentary that inspects the life and work of her friend, the late Hassan Sharif, one of the most influential figures in contemporary art in the UAE. The project premiered this week at Diff, as part of the Muhr Feature and the Muhr Emirati programme.

“Hassan was an old friend from the early ‘80s, all the way to his last days. He trusted me and knew about my desire to make a film about him,” said Al Ganem.

While production kept getting delayed, they eventually decided to sit down and conduct the interviews with him.

“When he knew he was ill, he asked me to start making the film, knowing he was not in good shape. However, we enjoyed every aspect of making the film,” she said.

The process of making such a documentary ended up becoming a learning experience, and despite knowing him for decades, Al Ganem managed to unravel a lot more through the documentary.

“You go through a very unique experience, and the beauty of making documentaries is the research that you do,” she adds.

Looking back, the filmmaker only had great things to say about her journey so far, and the experiences that come along with it. While it was full of challenges, the path itself was just as important to her, as her accomplishments.

“I’ve had personal experiences such as falling down, getting back up and continuing to shoot until the night, and finding out that I have broken my hip, with a recovery period of two years,” said Al Ganem.

Despite growing up in a conservative society, she has never faced any issues in the industry. As a denouement, Al Ganem, stated her disdain for being categorised as a ‘female’ filmmaker, and instead prefers being perceived as a ‘filmmaker’.

— The Young Journalist Award (YJA) at Diff is a training programme for high school and university students who are aspiring writers and reporters. Seven students are competing at the festival this year. One winner will secure a monthlong internship with Gulf News.