Image Nation announces AFS winners

Winners named in an exclusive awards ceremony held in Abu Dhabi on Monday December 5
Alawi Shareef won the top prize in the AFS documentary category
Alawi Shareef won the top prize in the AFS documentary category

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The regional film industry received another major boost last night as Image Nation Abu Dhabi, one of the leading media and entertainment companies in the Middle East, announced the winners of its fifth annual short film competition, Arab Film Studio.

Three winners scooped the coveted ‘Best Film’ title across two courses, AFS Documentary 2015 and AFS Narrative 2016, at an awards ceremony in the capital last night. The final films were judged by a panel of filmmaking elite including Emirati film directors Nahla Al Fahad (The Tainted Veil), Ali Mostafa (The Worthy) and Majid Al Ansari (Zinzana).

For the first time ever, Image Nation awarded two joint winners of its AFS Narrative competition as the title was just too close to call. Eman Talal Alsayed, 21, from the UAE scooped the gong for her short film The Choice alongside Jafaar Al Madhoon, 25, from Bahrain for his entry Rattled, a story about one man’s search to find a bride after consistent rejection. Rattled also took home the award for ‘Best Script’ from the judges.

The Choice by Eman Talal Alsayed follows the life of Lauren who is obliged to travel to the UAE for the first time to meet her long-lost family and settle her father’s inheritance. As well as winning the overall award, the short film has been shortlisted for the Muhr Emirati Short at this year’ Dubai International Film Festival, following in the footsteps of AFS Documentary 2014 winner Amna Al Nowais, who’s production Omnia won the award last year.

“I am so happy that I have won this award - I worked really hard on this film and put my heart into it. Plus my family is so proud of me and that means everything. I am also honoured that the film has been nominated for the Muhr Emirati Short at DIFF but I am extremely nervous as I am competing with the best in the industry – let’s see what happens!”, Eman said of the success.

Taking home the top prize in AFS Documentary was Alawi Shareef, 24, originally from African island Comoros, who was awarded the prestigious accolade for his documentary short Jumaa & Hakim. The documentary addresses the life of two young homeless boys struggling to survive until their lives are forever altered by a stranger from another land.

Alawi said of his win, “Winning this award makes me feel that a path has opened for me into the world of filmmaking. I feel motivated to carry on after being given this great opportunity and it’s a fantastic feeling to know that there is such as support network for amateur filmmakers in the region. What I was taught on the course in documentary filmmaking was to an extremely high, professional standard and I feel very confident in my abilities now. I look forward to learning more and making more films”.

A total of five awards were given at the AFS Awards Ceremony, with fellow AFS Documentary 2015 student Arkus, 30, India, taking ‘Best Producer’ for his documentary short Hartom.

For winning the ‘Best Film’ prizes, Alawi, Eman and Jafaar will receive an invaluable head start into the regional film industry provided by Image Nation. Alawi will undertake a full time internship within the award-winning documentary department responsible for productions such as He Named Me Malala, and The Lights of Rome, whilst Eman and Jafaar will undertake an exclusive internship opportunity on a national or international production.

Past winners of the competition have gone on to full time positions within Image Nation and have screened their AFS films at prominent festivals around the world including LA and Melbourne film festivals, picking up a multitude of awards along the way.

Alicia Gonzalez, head of training and development at Image Nation, said: “This year is without a doubt our biggest year to-date. The standard of productions was seriously impressive for an amateur film competition and so much so, in the case of AFS Narrative we felt that there were two deserved winners of the ‘Best Film’ title. The students should be immensely proud of themselves and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for them and their films”.

Arab Film Studio is a short film program that takes finalists on a six-month filmmaking journey that mirrors the real process of developing and producing a film. The competition provides all the tools and knowledge a budding filmmaker needs to kick-start a career in film.

It was created by Image Nation in 2011 in partnership with twofour54 to develop UAE nationals’ and residents’ filmmaking skills and has been celebrating five years of success in 2016. The program now consists of four dedicated specialisms; AFS Narrative, AFS Documentary, AFS Scriptwriting and AFS Young Filmmakers.

Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation, said “Arab Film Studio is one of our essential programs in the development of the region’s filmmakers. As the industry is growing we are providing the necessary tools and training to the talent of tomorrow, helping them to secure jobs within the industry through invaluable local and international opportunities. We are particularly impressed with the 2015/2016 graduates and have high hopes for their futures”.

Later this month Image Nation in partnership with DIFF will be awarding the winner of its inaugural AFS Scriptwriting competition at the Dubai International Film Festival.

Image Nation is still accepting submissions for their AFS Narrative program 2017, closing on December 12th.

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