GCFF shares Middle East voices with audiences in London
2 Kuwaiti short films among travelling film festival
By Cinatra Fernandes
Arab Times Staff The
5th Green Caravan Film Festival (GCFF) is sharing voices from the Middle East with audiences in London from 27-31 October and includes shorts from five Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, Bahrain, Tunisia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates and feature length documentaries from the United Kingdom, Palestine, France, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
The travelling film festival of environmental and socially conscious films, was founded by the environmental company Equilibrium in 2009, has toured Kuwait and Dubai for four years and made its London debut this week.
Sandra Al-Saleh, Co-Producer of GCFF, spoke to the Arab Times about how the festival hopes to bring together a variety of audiences, filmmakers, NGOs and supporters that can discover, share and cooperate on the vital issues preented by the films in an atmosphere of inspired camaraderie and passion.
Can you begin by taking a look back and telling us why the Green Caravan Film Festival was started?
It began because we realised that it was important to share information and build awareness about environmental issues in ways that were more accessible to wider audiences. Films speak to all kinds of people and stir your emotions making you more likely to take action or even just understand an issue more clearly.
In its five seasons, how has the GCFF evolved and expanded?
It has managed to grow from screening in a single location in Kuwait to multiple locations around the country and in Dubai and now London, so in terms of locations it has really grown into its original purpose as a travelling festival.
It has also grown into including more socially conscious films that go beyond environmental themes but are still linked to environmental issues.
Why do you think that film, as a medium, works well in highlighting issues?
It is a familiar and easy to handle medium to most, it isn’t much to ask people to spend an hour or so watching a film that might make a difference to your life. It takes less time for you to explore and digest an issue by watching a film than it would in any other medium, so it is usually a great way to get people interested in or be inspired by something they might have never considered before.
How many films will be screened this year? What is your criteria for selection?
This year we have 6 short films from the Middle East which we felt were important to share with an international audience in London. We wanted to showcase talent from the region and have local voices speak for themselves about themselves rather than to have others narrate their stories.
We have 5 international feature length films as well and our criteria are simple, we are interested in films with a social or environmental message that are well made and well thought out.
Can you tell us more about the entries from the MENA region and Kuwait in particular.
We have two short films produced by Kuwait, one is ‘Dinosaur’ by well known local filmmaker Meqdad Al-Kout who has always made films that shine a light on social issues in Kuwait with humour and pathos. The other film is ‘My Pink Room by Vachan Sharma which looks at the world through the eyes of a Syrian refugee boy. The script is based on the writings of Hooda Shawa and is a very moving and timely short piece.
We also have the very well received ‘Central Market’ by Bahraini director Saleh Nass which is an intimately paced story about a young boy working in a food market. ‘Daghwah’ is a beautifully filmed look at a disappearing method of fishing in the UAE directed by Moe Najati. A delightful addition is the funny and heart-breaking ‘The Purple House’ by Tunisian director Selim Gribaa, which is about a man in search of employment Tunisia before and after the Arab Spring.
How would you assess the climate for debate in the region? How
What is art from the Islamic world? Nov 21, Nov 28, Dec 5 are films contributing to that?
There are many different layers of social communication that are either fostering constructive progressive debate or stifling it. We are lucky enough to work in a field in which we get to meet many hopeful energetic and positive people working for change, but we also know that very often avenues for action and communication are closed and opinions are difficult to change. We think that if you are moved by a film, and our films are usually hard to be neutral about, you will feel impelled to discuss and debate and educate others about the issues presented and we hope that we continues to encourage spaces that are open to exploring and
One of film stills screened at GCFF
IBAK juniors bagging 13 medals in the 2nd GCC Junior Championship held in Bahrain early this year and as well as in the 2nd GCC invitational Badminton tournament recently held in Kuwait.
The motto of Inspire, Train and Achieve is what we have been doing for the last five years and our efforts have not gone in vain. With more than 500 trainees who have passed through our modules, many youngsters have gone on to achieve resounding improving the world around us.
What was the most challenging part of putting together the film festival?
The challenges come up at every stage, but each of them is also a pleasure. There is of course the search for the perfect program of films and that takes a long time and a lot of viewing. We had nearly 2,000 submissions and saw a further 100 films that were either recommended or looked interesting this year. That is a fun but challenging task. Then of course you have to make sure you have good venues available and we were very lucky to always have very supportive and enthusiastic venue partners throughout and this year is
success and many recreational adult trainees have won competitions too.
As part of promoting the game we are introducing the game to our younger generation, we would like to invite interested children/adults to come and be part of the 11th Module which will be held at the IBAK gym premises in Salwa. We presume you will make use of this wonderful opportunity and be part of the endeavor to promote badminton in a big way. You can visit no exception with the wonderful Rich Mix and The Frontline Club both being welcoming homes for the festival in London.
How would you gauge the present day awareness on environmental and social issues? Are there any markers of change?
We are not anywhere near where we should be in terms of dealing with climate change and facing the many environmental challenges we have but we do certainly see a great improvement over the years. People are more aware, more worried and more ready to act. But the time to make a difference is passing and we need to be much more involved and educated about the challenges than we are.
From your experience, do filmmakers in the region have enough support institutionally and in terms of an audience? What are the most pressing challenges that emerging filmmakers in the region face?
The landscape for film has really improved over the years. Support is made much more available to local talent, funding is easier to get than before with all the countries in the region putting an effort into supporting film. However, we still have gaps in terms of proper training and a real fertile environment where filmmakers feels not only supported but free to make and say whatever they want. Audiences are also growing more interested in locally made films, especially as the quality of filmmaking is improving.
Poster of UAE film ‘Daghwah’