Grab some popcorn and get ready for a movie binge when the Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) kicks off on October 8. The fifth edition of the annual festival, the brainchild of Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, runs until Friday and promises to be a star-filled event.
Shaikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Media Arts For Youth and Children (FUNN) and SICFF (pictured) says the event has grown exponentially since its inception. The first one had 100 entries; year five had 500 movies from across the globe vying for a spot. The fest is kept relevant with a little help from her kids. She says her team is always asking her for her seven-year-old son Rashid’s feedback about things.
About the journey, she recalls ruefully, “It was more a challenge for parents [to get on-board with the idea of a movie fest specifically for children] than kids... — it’s [about] media literacy.”
This year, there are 124 movies that are being screened in total at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre and at Sahara Centre. And workshops for children — adults may attend — number about 50. These workshops post the festival will also be held in Kalba, Dibba Al Hisn and Khorfakkan, from October 15-31, and in Al Dhaid, Al Madam, Al Hamyria and Al Bataeh, from November 5-16.
From learning how Game of Thrones’ dragons are created to creating a stunning time-lapse, there are a fun number of activities for children of all ages.
And there’s a stringent process to pick the films, too, besides a tough jury for the seven categories competing for prizes. “Normally we had four members only; this year we’ve expanded the jury...so each category has it’s own jury, [from the relevant field].” Here’s a look at movies to watch, workshops to undertake — and generally the fun that’s to be had at this week’s SICFF.
500 submissions made to the film festival this year
124 screenings being held during SICFF
50 workshops being held this year, for parents and children
7 categories of prizes to be won
37 children from across the emirate were part of the children’s jury
Movies to try
Shaikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SCIF, says while there are many excellent choices of films, here are five that are strong in terms of story and style, besides being regional premieres
Albion: The Enchanted Stallion
Starring: John Cleese, Debra Messing, Jennifer Morrison and Stephen Dorf.
When and where: 5pm, October 8, Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.
The fest’s opening movie centres on teenager Ivy, who is transported by a magical black stallion to the mystical world of Albion, where she discovers that she is the key to saving an entire race.
The Little Vampire
Starring: Jim Carter, Rasmus Hardiker, Alice Krige.
When and where: 6.30pm, Friday, Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.
Thirteen-year-old vampire Rudolph, whose clan is threatened by a vampire hunter, makes friends with a mortal, Tony, who will help him deal with the ensuing adversity.
A Little Boy
Starring: Jakob Salvati, Emily Watson, David Henrie.
When and where: 6.15pm, October 9, Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.
An eight-year-old boy is on a mission to get his father home as the Second World War rages.
Starring: Priyanka Bose, Bhalchandra Kadam, Shubham More
When and where: 10.30am, on Tuesday, at Novo Cinemas, Sahara Centre.
The movie centres on two young Indian slum dwellers eager to eat pizza at a newly opened restaurant, but they can’t afford to.
Ballad From Tibet
Starring: Lobsang Turpten, Yeshi Choedon and Karma Sangmo
When and where: 9.15am, Thursday, Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.
This is a tale of a group of kids who know they will soon lose their sight and strive to see the world in all its glory before they do.
Word from the jury
This year there’s a new jury format — where there used to be four deciding the fate of all categories, this year each section has a dedicated roll of experts — including Hollywood celebrities such as 11-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who made his debut with the 2015 hit Room — picking the winners.
The seven prizes up for grabs are: Best Short GCC Film; Best Student-made Film; Best International Short Film; Best Animation Film; Best Documentary Film; Best Feature Film; and Best Child-made Film, a prize picked by children.
So what are the jury members looking for in a winner? Emirati artist, actor, script writer, director, researcher and member of SICFF’s judging panel, Abdullah Saleh, says, “Any art work is evaluated in terms of three important factors; good and elaborated script, good acting and creative direction.”
Dr Habib Ghuloom, Emirati actor and director, was also agog at the diversity: “The children who created these films have great potential capabilities. There is a selection of films from around the world; Indian, American, British, Japanese … etc, and this diversity was very important for us as a jury.”
Try these workshops
Shaikha Jawaher says: “I actually like the one-off workshops for kids. We actually had a lot of workshops for 10 years and above, and then we discovered we had a lot of kids that were younger than 10, who will find it very hard to sit through a one-hour workshop. Then we developed these short...[classes] for younger children, where their parents join in.” But if you do have children who’d like a more in-depth look at things, here are a few workshops to try. Tickets to these cost Dh10 for children and Dh20 for adults.
Game of Thrones: Creating the Dragon
Age group: 11+
What: Trainer Thomas Kutschera, who has worked on the HBO mega project, will lead participants into the world of fire and ice and explain how the majestic monsters were made. Shaikha Jawaher recalled last year’s workshop on the same topic, “My mouth was open all the time,” she saidStop motion
Age group: 10+
What: Kawthar Adnan, a specialist in creative animation pictures from Bahrain, will explain the fundamentals of animation and the different styles and methods of assembling a series of still pictures in one frame.
Age group: 15+
This workshop explores the art and techniques of manipulating time and frame rates to create a stunning time lapse. The workshops are conducted by Tatiana Poliektova from Russia and Filippo Rivetti from Australia.
Make your own movie poster
Age group: 12+
Organised under the sponsorship of the Sharjah Art Foundation, this workshop will showcase how to create interesting posters.
Sharjah-based organisation FUNN is all about promoting media and arts and recently, the children at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan were treated to film screenings, including of the Oscar-winning movie Sing (pictured).
Two movies by refugees will also be screened — Special Guest, from 10-11am, October 9; and Marhaba, from 10.15-11.15am, on Tuesday — at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre. Tickets to all movies are Dh10 for kids; Dh20 for adults. The screenings are open to the public in the evenings.