The sixth Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF 2018) opens on 14 October and runs for six days. The first children’s film festival in the country (and indeed the region), it’s the biggest yet – 138 films in total, including 54 premieres (12 of them international firsts).
There are also around 40 specialised workshops, interactive sessions, and appearances by industry pros and celebs – “all designed to ignite the imagination of young film enthusiasts, act as a platform where they can have new creative experiences, and increase their know-how of films and the media arts in general”.
SICFF’s mission statement centres on fostering the creative talents of young people but it also has an international outlook – “the festival is dedicated to engaging children and young people with their peers across the globe” including “exposing children and young people in the region to world cultures”. There’s also the message of tolerance and coexistence: “it seeks to promote peace, tolerance and global understanding of how people from different cultures, religions and backgrounds can live together peacefully and equally”.
SICFF 2018 is run by the engagingly named FUNN, a moniker of the rather more formal Sharjah Media Arts for Youth. “We believe that art is key to enriching the personalities and perceptions of young people, and that the ideas presented in films are strong catalysts that fire up children’s imaginations and develop their ability to discover beauty,” said Shaikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SICFF (and daughter of the Ruler of Sharjah).
The panel discussions are a new addition. Included in the speaker roster is Walt Disney Studios’ animator Brian Ferguson, who will speak at a session titled ‘Disney World between the Past and the Present’. Emirati actor/producer/director Abdullah Al Humairi is doing one on social media and the film industry, including the challenges of filmmaking via social media platforms.
Also confirmed are the prolific author Hamad Al Shehabi, Bahraini filmmaker Mohammed Ibrahim, and movie critic Mansura Abdul Amir.
Over 40 workshops – designed “to open up the wonderful world of moviemaking to creative young minds” – are organised in three streams: Animation, Film and (still) Photography. There are some interesting titles – like ‘Stop Motion for Special Needs’, a 3D workshop with Sebastian Reichhold from Disney, cinema tricks with filmmaker Ghassan Abdullah and special makeup with Farouk Hassan. (Some are Arabic-language only.)
And a session on ‘Filmmaking with Refugees’ features animator Simon Medard from collaborative animation workshop Camera-etc with the Lebanese filmmaker Diaa Mulaeb. Mulaeb was responsible for Our story: we were forced to flee Syria, a series of six short films produced by Save the Children’s Lebanon country programme but created entirely by Syrian refugee children.
Some of those are included in the festival, which will screen a selection of shorts based on the lives of refugees in countries around the Middle East and East Africa. Some have been directed by filmmakers with support from UNICEF and UNHCR, others have been made by refugee children themselves.
The main part of SICFF is based in entries in seven award categories, including Best Short Arab Film, Best Student-made Film, Best International Short Film, Best Animation Film, Best Documentary Film, Best Feature Film, and Best Child-made Film.
Some of the jurors have been named – Saudi documentary film producer Hana Makki, Bahraini actress Haifa Hussein, and Palestinian filmmaker and producer Hani Abu Assad, along with Brian Ferguson, Mansura Abdul Amir, and Simon Medard from the workshops and panels.
The full programme is on the website. Basically the films are organised into age-related sessions of 40 minutes or more, running all morning and sometimes the afternoon and early evening too. A day ticket costs AED 21 per person and lets you watch as many films as you can take; they’re showing at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC) opposite Sharjah Airport or on three screens of CinemaCity near the universities.
Workshops and panels are at JRCC. They typically run for an hour, and they’re free; there’s no advance booking, so just turn up. Check the website for the full list (and to make sure you’re ok with the language).