Following a six-day cinematic extravaganza that showcased the rich diversity and perspectives of talented young filmmakers from around the globe, the curtains came down yesterday (October 15) on the eighth edition of the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF), held virtually for the first time in its 8-year history.

A vibrant mix of more than 80 warm-hearted and riveting stories from 38 countries, together with interactive workshops and insightful discussions, successfully took forward SIFF’s agenda of enriching the cultural and educational horizons of budding young creative talents across the region. 

FUNN, the Sharjah-based organisation that promotes media arts learning among children and youth, also honoured seven filmmakers in its various competition categories for elevating the craft of filmmaking through their rich content and vivid storytelling. SIFF 2021, which has earned a reputation for spotlighting an exciting new generation of filmmakers, attracted a total of 2,950 submissions this year.

Winners of the SIFF Award announced

UK director Joe Blandamer’s animation short, Overload, was selected as Best Child & Youth Made Film while La Bestia, made by Marlijn Van Nuenen, Ram Tamez, and Alfredo Gerard Kuttikatt was adjudged as the Best Student’s Film at SIFF 2021.

The award for the Best GCC Short Film went to Saudi Arabian director Fahad Alotaibi’s intense drama, Opportunity, and Texas filmmaker Andrew Krakower scooped up the award in the Best International Short Film category for Yarne, which offers a rare glimpse into the social fabric of child monks in Nepal.

The visually delightful Roberto by Spanish writer and director, Carmen Córdoba, was named the Best Animation Film while Italian filmmaker Paola Sorrentino’s Girls Talk About Football where six girls share their experiences of playing a male dominated sport, earned the award for Best Documentary. The award for the Best Feature Film of SIFF 2021 went to Russian director Aleksandr Galibin’s My Little Sister, a searing drama set against the backdrop of a war.

Sharjah committed to promoting children’s and youth cinema

Under the theme, ‘Think Films’, SIFF 2021 ran from October 10 – 15 showcasing a variety of genres including shorts, animations, documentaries, and feature films. The virtual festival held 6 world premieres, 34 Middle East and four GCC premieres, and showcased four films that were screened for the first time in the UAE. SIFF 2021 also hosted 34 workshops and five panel discussions in English as well as Arabic, presented by a host of renowned filmmakers, on various aspects of filmmaking.

SIFF and FUNN Director: By bringing the best films … we are helping raise a more aware generation

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN and SIFF, said that more than 4,000 submissions SIFF received over the past two years “reflects the impact of cinema on our lives and highlights the importance of the freedom it gives us”.

Thanking His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), for their commitment to promoting children’s and youth cinema, the SIFF Director added: "By bringing the best films to children and youth, we are helping raise a more aware generation and enhancing their role in achieving the aspirations of their country.”

“We are committed to offer the new generation a platform to share their insights, perceptions and ideas with the world. We want to listen and see what children and youth dream of, because they are our partners in shaping and building a better future for all,” she concluded.

SIFF 2021 honours an elite jury including young members, and sponsors & partners

The 13-member jury featuring acclaimed local and global filmmakers, actors and academics who evaluated more than 80 films in competition were also honoured during the closing ceremony. These included Emirati filmmaker Hamad Abdullah Saghran and Bahraini photographer and video artist, Mashael Alsaie, who were jurors of the Student’s Film category; Emirati filmmaker Majid Al Ansari, Kuwaiti actor and director Abdullah Al-Turkmany, and Omani filmmaker Dr. Khalid bin Abdul Rahim Al Zadjali, who adjudged the winners of the GCC Films category.

Other jury members felicitated were Emirati filmmaker Maryam Bin Fahad who partnered with journalist and film academician Giulio Vita from Italy for the International Short Film category; Emirati director Fadel Al Mheiri and Kuwaiti cartoonist and animation artist Yousef Albagshi who were jurors of the Animation Film category; and popular podcaster James Piecowye, and American director and producer, Bentley Brown, who were on the jury of the Documentary Film category. Popular Syrian actor Abed Fahad and Kuwaiti director Khaled Al Refai who evaluated the Feature Film category were also honoured.

SIFF 2021 also thanked all its young jurors and honoured its partners and sponsors, including the Sharjah Media City (Shams) – Gold Partner; Crescent Enterprises and Gulftainer - Strategic Partners; Sharjah Government Media Bureau - Strategic Media Partner; Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority - Official Tourism Partner; Majid TV – Support Partner; and Nikon – Educational Partner.

Other strategic partners including Sharjah Broadcasting Authority – Media Partner; Creative Lab - Educational Partner; and Alef Group, Rahmania Mall, and Arada - Venue Partners; and The Chedi Al Bait - Hospitality Partner, were also honoured at the closing ceremony.

Source: Cicero and BErnay

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