The programme for the fourth edition of Sharjah Film Platform (SFP4), Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual film festival, has just been released. It has in-cinema screenings of over 50 films, including some world and regional premieres, culminating in awards for experimental, documentary and narrative categories.
There’s also a public programme of talks and workshops, including for the first time some aimed specifically at kids; and a clutch of professional development initiatives, among them the second iteration of SFP’s Industry Hub – a practical initiative to foster film production and distribution regionally.
SFP is the major focus for Sharjah Art Foundation’s commitment to supporting and presenting the work of emerging filmmakers from the UAE, the MENASA region and beyond. “New programmes, such as the Industry Hub, introduced last year, have already helped projects by regional filmmakers into production and we continue to offer grants to support the making of new work,” said SAF President and Director Hoor Al Qasimi.
“By bringing together local, regional and international filmmakers and audiences, the Platform gives us an opportunity to celebrate experimentation and creativity and to explore critical topics such as representation, identity and belonging.”
The Foundation also announced the winners of its 2021 Short Film Production Grant, which provides support for the creation of original short films. They are Maaria Sayed and Mariam Al Serkal for Unveiling Selma, a story about an Emirati woman rediscovering her womanhood; Randa Maroufi for L’mina, an imaginative depiction of a former mining town in Morocco; and Janus Victoria for The Myth of Manila, which documents the plight of a reporter in pandemic-afflicted Manila and will premiere this year during SFP4. (Unveiling Selma and L’mina will screen at next year’s festival.)
SFP4 will screen more than 50 films submitted through this year’s SFP open call and works by invited filmmakers. Some of the films will also be available online.
This year’s festival also includes two curated programmes – ‘Director in Focus’ highlighting the work of award-winning Palestinian director Michel Khleifi, whose films portray the lives of Palestinians from a social and political standpoint under Israeli occupation; and ‘Her Journey’, presented in partnership with Istanbul Modern, exploring complex, women-centric stories in Turkish cinema.
At the conclusion of the festival, SAF will present awards to outstanding films in the experimental, documentary and narrative categories.
In addition to the film screenings, SFP4 features talks and masterclasses—free and open to the public—that examine topics relevant to contemporary filmmaking, including archival practices, the art of the film score and inclusivity and representation in the film industry.
Session speakers include some industry notables. Among them are the BAFTA award–winning documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto; Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, co-director of Berlin’s Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art; two-time Academy Award and Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker James Longley; visual artist Basma Al Sharif, who was awarded a Jury Prize at Sharjah Biennial 9 for We Began By Measuring Distance; Jihan El-Tahri, an award-winning filmmaker and director of the Berlin-based DOX BOX; and two-time Oscar winner AR Rahman (composer of the scores for Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours);.
Returning to SFP for the second year is the Industry Hub, a programme that offers filmmakers opportunities to develop their projects, receive production funding and secure distribution.
The Industry Hub comprises the Pitching Forum, an open call competition for feature-length screenplays; the Script Lab, a professional scriptwriting course; and the Virtual Film Distribution Market, a platform dedicated to supporting regional and international film distribution for short and feature-length films across genres.