The long-awaited Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF 2021) returned on the evening of Sunday, 10th October, with its first-ever fully virtual edition and Kim Jin-Yu’s South Korean feature “Bori” making its Middle East premiere.
The globally acclaimed film festival organised by FUNN – Sharjah Media Arts for Youth and Children under the theme “Think Fil”, is open to audiences worldwide who can register on the link www.siff.ae to enjoy the films as well as attend the workshops and panel discussions. SIFF will continue until Friday, 15th October, 2021.
In her keynote address during the opening ceremony, Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SIFF, said that the film festival had grown into a unique and exclusive platform for the young generations to explore and strengthen their connection with the media arts.
“For years, FUNN has been realising the vision of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the directives of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, by investing in children and youth and building ambitious generations capable of fully expressing their creativity and sharing it with their peers worldwide,” Sheikha Jawaher said.
“Amid recent challenges and uncertainty, we deepen our bond with life and see the extraordinary in its simplicities. Films have gifted us fascinating and unforgettable moments. At times, they serve as a shield in the face of challenges and become a bridge that helps us reach out to and communicate with people, especially from other cultures,” she added.
“The 8th edition of SIFF will be exceptional, held virtually to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. We have a programme schedule, which I am sure will not only meet but exceed your ambitions and artistic vision. This year, we look forward to witnessing remarkable moments of creative genius, and in the process, explore varied experiences of participating filmmakers and media arts professionals who have joined us from around the globe. The new value they create on this platform will build on the achievements of the festival’s previous editions,” Sheikha Jawaher said in conclusion.
Nahla Al Fahad, the Emirati filmmaker; Abed Fahed, the Syrian actor; Yahya Mahayni, the Syrian actor and writer, whose moving performance in the 2021 Oscar-nominated film “The Man Who Sold His Skin” won him international acclaim; and a host of junior jurors, also spoke during the event.
In her address, Nahla Al Fahad thanked the Emirate of Sharjah for the opportunities it gave children and youth to experience culture and arts through such festivals.
“SIFF now provides it to lovers of photography, acting, and directing through film screenings, training workshops, and panel discussions, in addition to meeting with experts. It also provides training to develop the talents of participants as part of the festival’s objectives. Therefore, it has significant value as it raises children and youth from consumers of cinema to learning how it is created, taking them through the various stages of production while learning the art and craft of making films. Every family may have a potential writer, director, cinematographer or producer, and festivals such as SIFF are important tools to bring their talents to the fore and enrich the medium,” she said.
Speaking about the importance of SIFF, Abed Fahed said, “Art has an irresistible magic power. Children and youth have an extraordinary capability to capture the beauty of cinema and interpret it in a way that reflects their dreams and reality. We start to develop our awareness of life and art as children or young people from our mothers’ lullabies and school hymns when we stroll in nature or watch unforgettable movies. Those childhood impressions played a decisive role in choosing my career path and becoming what I am today.”
In his address, Mahayni, winner of the Best Actor Award in the Horizons section at the Venice International Film Festival 2020, took the opportunity to share his life lessons with the young audience.
“Everybody aspires for happiness – for some, it is fame and money, for others, it may be travelling, discovering new places, or languages. I always keep reminding myself that all these things are a means to an end – happiness. There is a multitude of ways to achieve it; the important thing is to be able to sustain your curiosity and imagination and pursue [your dreams],” Mahayni said.
“In my opinion, what will bring lasting happiness is self-satisfaction. I encourage each of you to ask yourself what is it that makes you satisfied with yourself. Write it down to remind yourself each day and motivate yourself to become what you want to be. It has worked for me; it should work for you too,” he added.
The opening ceremony concluded with the introduction of junior jurors and the jurors for the various categories to the audience.
SIFF 2021 opened with the South Korean film Bori, making its Middle East debut. Directed by Kim Jin-Yu, the charming film narrated the story of Bori, who lives with her parents and little brother, the only member in an otherwise deaf and silent household who can talk and hear and constantly prays to go deaf too. The film focuses on the young girl’s struggle to fit in with her own family.
The full slate of films includes more than 80 films from 38 countries, including six world premieres, 34 Middle East and four Gulf Cooperation Council premieres, and four films being shown for the first time in the UAE.
SIFF will also host 34 workshops and five panel discussions in English and Arabic, presented by a host of renowned filmmakers, on various aspects of filmmaking.