The third GCC Film Festival is coming to the UAE, with screenings at Novo Cinemas in Abu Dhabi Mall between 16 and 20 October.
The event – first held in Doha in 2012, with the only other edition in Kuwait a year later – specifically champions films from the GCC. There’s no overt ambition to take over the role of the now-defunct Gulf Film Festival in Dubai, let alone the long-gone Abu Dhabi Film Festival, but clearly there’s a case for bringing together regional films and filmmakers without the complications of the noise and marketing budgets of Western cinema.
The festival will however include workshops organised by Western-originated entities – the Manhattan Film Academy and New York University – in addition to a seminar on the role of cinema in combating terrorism.
The meat of the event comprises a total of 27 films from the six GCC countries, each of which has been invited to submit a maximum of five films.
The UAE’s contribution includes Saeed Salmeen’s well-received coming-of-age road movie, Going to Heaven, released a few months ago (still above). The tale of a couple of young boy and his friend crossing the UAE to find his grandmother makes for a touching feel-good film about local concerns but with universal appeal.
We can also recommend a couple more UAE entries. Nearby Sky from filmmaker-poet Nujoom Al Ghanem is an award-winner about the life of Fatma Al Hameli, the first female Emirati camel owner to personally attend the country’s camel beauty contests and auctions; this engaging 85-minute feature was first seen earlier this year as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival.
And Jamal Salem’s 2013 weepie Royal Love/Hob Maliki returns to UAE screens, a sad love story set in Dubai (hapless youth courts fellow student, loses out to rich competitor, gets a second chance through his poetry, loses out again).