Films made by children from all over the world — including Emirati pupils and Palestinian refugees — are the highlights of the six-day Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF), beginning on October 18.

Held under the patronage of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the wife of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, the third edition of the annual Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) will screen a 175 films from 20 countries. The films will delve into topics ranging from social issues to the current refugee crisis, says Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, the festival director.

Focus on the UAE

Emirati pupils lead the way with submissions such as Be You, an animated feature film about the importance of self-esteem; We’re Still Here, a series of interviews with elderly Emiratis; Void, which looks at the cultural challenges young girls face, seen through the eyes of three university friends; Booger, about how a 10-year-old boy learns to stand up to the class bully; and Frozen Yogurt, which involves three teenagers and a murder.

Films for thought

The section Make a Move, Make a Change will showcase movies made by child refugees that reveal aspects of their lives, created in a stop-motion animation workshop led by Lebanese animator Diaa Malaeb in collaboration with Save The Children, War Child Holland and UNHCR. Also showing are Badawi and Naher El Bared, by Palestinian teenagers from refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon. They are among six shorts produced by Lebanon’s Save The Children Programme.

International line-up

Topping the bill are Iranian films Ranna’s Silence, about a little girl and her hen; On The Wings of Imagination; and The Sea & The Flying Fish. Also on show are Gabriel, from Poland, and Horizon Beautiful, from Ethiopia. Ailia, an Egyptian film, narrates a chance meeting between two children — a Palestinian and an Israeli. Kurdish drama The Kids & The Bike is about a group of village kids and their obsession with the postman’s cycle.

Top animated features include A Flower In The Box from the United States, about a girl’s adventure into her memory; Little Matryoshka from Turkey, which features a beautiful nesting doll as the protagonist; and The World of Goopi and Bagha from India, where two blundering yet loveable musicians sing their way through encounters with ghosts, kings and princesses. Another must-watch is Oscar-nominated Japanese film The Tale of Princess Kaguya, about a baby girl with magical powers who is adopted by a bamboo cutter. The line-up is rounded off by submissions from Australia, Russia, Canada, Ireland and Indonesia.

Meet the judges

Manal Ali Bin Amro: An Emirati writer and filmmaker whose film Stuck Face (2006) won an award at the 2007 Dubai International Film Festival. She also won the Most Promising Emirati Filmmaker of the Year Award at DIFF 2009. She has directed several short films, including Shoes (2006), Al Musta’ar (2008), Mariam’s Paradise (2008), From the Agenda of Betrayal (2009), Widad (2009), Noura’s Apple (2010) and There (2011). She was born in Abu Dhabi in 1978, and has a degree in mass communications from the UAE University, College of Sociology and Humanities.

Abdullah Hassan Ahmed: One of the UAE’s pioneering filmmakers, he is the manager of Faradees Art Production Company, where he has produced more than 20 short films, including Soweer (2010) and Smaller Than the Sky (2012) Sabeel and Tenbak, many of which have won international and national awards. His film Tenbak (2008) won first prize in the short-film competition at the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai in 2008, and has also won prizes at San Francisco Arab Film Festival, Emirates Film Competition, and the Dubai International Film Festival. He won Digital Studio Magazine’s Best Arab Filmmaker award in 2006, and has provided TV stations with films including Soora Naqesa (2008), and the documentary Emirati High Flyers (2013). He was a jury member for the 2010 Emirates Film Competition, and the Wahran International Film Festival in 2010. He also direct commercials, documentaries and dramas.

Shahin Yazdani: An Iranian-born independent filmmaker/producer and educator who has written several feature-length screenplays, including Istgah and Malek Khatoon (1999), both of which became highly acclaimed Iranian feature films. His projects outside of Iran have been showcased at film festivals, art galleries and conferences, as well as in street performances internationally. In the UAE, Yazdani has mentored and produced numerous prize-winning student-film projects that have received accolades at film festivals and competitions in the region and internationally.

Shoaib Iqbal: Iqbal is the founder and director of The Little Art, a not-for-profit arts-­education organisation that uses art to promote positive social values to marginalised children and young adults. He also founded the Lahore International Children’s Film Festival, which has been organised annually in various cities since 2008. He is a postgraduate from The DeVos Institute of Arts Management, in Washington DC, holds a diploma in international development from New York’s East Side Institute and is an Asia 21 fellow with the Asia Society.

The details

The Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival runs from October 18 to 23. Films will be screened at Novo Cinemas in Sahara Centre and Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre, with more planned for cinemas in Dhaid, Khorfakkan, Dibba, Kalba, Al Madam, Al Hamriyah and Al Batayeh. Films will be shown in two time slots — morning and evening — and will be categorised by age groups. There will also be workshops and a week-long advanced filmmaking camp for students. For more details, visit