Voicing life through film

Nobody's Enemy, about young people in Iran, is among the films being shown at the four-day festival. (SUPPLIED)

Real life takes a starring role on the big screen this week with a new film festival in the UAE.

The region's first event dedicated to documentaries is the country's fifth such cinematic event on the cultural calendar. Documentary Voices: Pulling Focus joins the family of the Dubai, Middle Eastern, Prerna and Gulf international film festivals, and is set to debut tomorrow at Dubai Knowledge Village.

It is being held under the patronage of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA) and more than 20 documentary films from the Arab region, the United States, and Iran are being screened. They explore themes ranging from music to politics, and from war and peace to faith.

Running until July 8, the event will be inaugurated tomorrow night, with music provided by Maestro Nader Mashayekhi and the Vienna-Tehran ensemble. However, screenings begin at 11am and the full schedule is available on its official website.

Contributions from Iran are among the most important documentaries being shown. Director Mahboubeh Honarian's film, Hidden in Dust, depicts the lives of drug addicts and homeless people of Tehran, who live in public parks. While Massoud Bakhshi's Tehran Has No More Pomegranates tells of a village called Tehran whose several districts are constantly at war, Jahangir Golestan-Parast's Bam 6.6 weaves together stories of survival, loss, and healing in the light of the devastating earthquake that struck the Iranian village in 2003.

And Nobody's Enemy, by Neda Sarmast, examines the lives, voices and hopes of Iran's young people in a time of great change and international instability.

Meanwhile, Lebanese director Phillip Bajally's deeply personal Immortal Memory documents how his town in southern Lebanon had to be evacuated in order to escape Israeli bombings in the summer of 2006. Unfortunately, the citizens were attacked as their civilian caravan made its way north.

There are also first-time American filmmakers, Nathan Fisher and Matt Bowlby, who will offer a preview of their documentary-in-the-making, The Party After the War, which details the life of Iraqis living in Syria after fleeing their war-consumed country.

Not only will the event be a treat to world film and documentary fans, it also promises to be an incredibly useful tool for filmmakers in the region.

Attendees will get an insight into production, financing, distribution and creative development aspects. Meanwhile, the workshops will include classes designed to hone filmmakers' skills, promote effective communication, and encourage networking.

"As a hub for art and culture, Dubai is keen to create forums for artists to showcase their talent and exchange ideas on their craft," says Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the DCAA. "Documentaries have created some of the most compelling perspectives of life and society in today's world and through this festival we are seeking to raise the profile of documentary filmmaking in the UAE."

Adds festival Artistic Director Anisa Mehdi: "The event will provide a platform for presenting the works of established filmmakers while showcasing the freshness and originality of newcomers. It will also provide participants with rich networking opportunities and exposure to key industry contacts."

Admission is free to the four-day film festival.


Documentary Voices: Pulling Focus, Dubai 2008. Screening times and details are available at www.documentaryvoices.com