Emirati girls win award in documentary production

M. A. Qudoos (Deputy Bureau Chief)
Filed on June 5, 2008

ABU DHABI Emirati girl students have once again proved that they can excel not only in education but also in a variety of extra-curricular fields, including documentary production.

Two documentaries highlighting UAE's rich heritage and love for the nation's founding father the late Shaikh Zayed produced by the students won the award in the Shaikh Zayed Category of the first international documentary competition titled "Document Your Talent". They will share the prize money of Dh100,000.

The competition was organised recently under the patronage of Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, by Anasy Media Productions in liaison with Sama Dubai TV channel.

The documentaries, the first-ever venture by the students, are Nation's Shattered Legacy, produced by Isra Jasim Al Saabri, student of Mass Communications with Concentration on Advertising, at the American University of Sharjah, and Dar Zayed's Hidden Treasures, produced by five students of the College of Communication and Media of Zayed University, Abu Dhabi.

The five students are Maytha Al Mehairbi, Bushra Alkaff Al Hashemi, Hamda Al Qubaisi, Latifa Khalifa Al Nahyan and Alyazia Al Yousif.

Isra told Khaleej Times that she came to know about the competition from the wide publicity given to the event at her university.

"I was interested in the Shaikh Zayed Category. I collected my thoughts on the subject and went ahead to produce the documentary," said Isra.

She said that most of the documentary was filmed at the university with added clips from various archives. Isra's family has interest in arts and she would like to pursue film-making more as a hobby.

Isra's documentary, Nation's Shattered Legacy, in Arabic and partly in English, with English sub-titles, communicates a girl's struggle and longing for her beloved father, leader and teacher the late Shaikh Zayed, whose remembrance is found in every good deed in the Arab and Islamic nation.

The 34-minute documentary also covers testimonials, from Emiratis and non-Emiratis, who lived during this great leader's reign, and share their experiences as kids and express their love for their beloved father, whose death caused anguish among those who experienced the love and kindness of his great guidance.

Dar Zayed's Hidden Treasures

It was Maytha who was amazed to learn about UAE's archaeological richness during a lecture at the Shaikh Zayed Academy, the school of four of the five girls, by Peter Hellyer, former executive director of Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, in which he told the students that a 5th century church was found on Sir Bani Yas island during excavations in 1992.

"It was Maureen Sargeant, our professor of UAE history and English literature at the academy, who told us that our country has a rich history and invited Peter Hellyer for the lecture when we were in Grade 9," Bushra said.

Maureen flew in from Canada at the invitation of the girls to attend the awards ceremony. "I had 16 students in the class. I am proud that four have been honoured at the competition. These talented girls possess deep love for their country and want to give back to their country," she told Khaleej Times.

"As my students, they would make small films and present them in the class. They always talked about producing films," Maureen said. "They are very special, they do not forget people," she said.

"We had no idea that Abu Dhabi was so rich in archaeology and heritage," Maytha said, adding, "We are advancing at such a fast pace, but it is good to sometimes look at our past, our civilisation thousands of years ago."

She did not forget about the discovery of the church. Five months ago, while studying video production at her college, she got the idea to make a documentary on the subject of archaeology and heritage of the country. She and her four colleagues joined their talent for a noble cause.

Bushra remembered Shaikh Zayed's saying that those who do not have a past, do not have a present and a future.

"As daughters of this country, we wanted to project our past," she says.

For the 30-minute documentary in English, they selected the three islands of Sir Bani Yas, Delma and Murawah which are only visited by people on weekends and for holidaying.

"We made several trips to the islands. Met old people and heard stories of three generations living there. The history of the UAE still remains in the hearts of our elders, in their memory, but not in a documentary," Bushra said.

"We talked to archaeologists and scientists. They were encouraging. I did not know that 5,000 people live on Delma island. After the experience of the documentary, I view my country differently," Maytha added.

"This is the first time that any of us has done anything like this. People living on the island welcomed us. They had an emotional attachment to the island. It was the first time that they had received Emirati women and camera. They spoke pure UAE dialect, but we had no difficulty understanding them," they said.

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