A rising star of the Emirati film industry has secured the top prize in the Arab Film Studio (AFS) Scriptwriting competition on the closing night of the Dubai International Film Festival.
Eman Talal Alsayed collected the accolade at the Muhr Awards for her script Blanket, taking home a 100,000 AED film grant to help turn the award-winning script into a reality. This is the second award in two weeks for the talented female writer and director who also scooped the coveted ‘Best Film’ award in the AFS Narrative competition earlier this month for her short film The Choice.
AFS Scriptwriting is a film writing program from Image Nation Abu Dhabi, a leading media and entertainment company, in partnership with the Dubai Film Market (DFM), the trade arm of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).
Eman Talal Alsayed, whose short film The Choice was also nominated for Best Emirati Short at the Muhr Awards, said of her win, “I cannot believe I have won for the second time in less than two weeks! I am so happy - this has given me huge confidence in my abilities and definitely developed me as a writer. I’m looking forward to making more films!”
In Blanket, the fear of possible scandal forces 15-year-old Mahra into a marriage that turns out more difficult than what she had ever imagined.
Eman competed alongside seven other students of the program, who participated in scriptwriting and pitching workshops during DFM. Eman and three other shortlisted students and screenwriters – Jaffar Mahmoud (Dead Men Walking), Suhar Najjar (Nazaryan (Theoretically)) and Afnan Al Qasimi (#Sha7m (#Grease)) – then progressed to a competitive pitching session with an esteemed panel of judges.
Shivani Pandya, DIFF’s Managing Director said: "We are extremely happy with the success of the first ever AFS Scriptwriting program in partnership with Image Nation. The eight students brought immense enthusiasm and talent to the workshops and we were very impressed with the final scripts. We look forward to continuing to support and nurture the next generation of screenwriters".
The shortlisted scripts were judged by three film industry professionals including award-winning Emirati director and cinematographer Khalid Al Mahmoud, known for shorts Celebration of Life (2006) and Sabeel (2010), Sami Asi from BBC World Service, and Christine Kopf from The Film Prize of the Robert Bosch Stiftung for international cooperation, which awards film projects by young German and Arab filmmakers.
Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation, said; “The first AFS Scriptwriting program has been an extraordinary success and we are proud to be able to support emerging filmmakers with a renowned film body such as the Dubai Film Market. We really are creating a flourishing pool of future talent and a strong foundation for the regional film industry”.
The AFS Scriptwriting course is a 5-month long learning program, including a 3-week intensive workshop focusing on all aspects of scriptwriting – from story concept to character development. This is followed by a 3-month assignment, where participants are asked to conceive a short film screenplay using the skills learnt on the course. The competition was introduced to the Arab Film Studio fold in 2016, joining courses AFS Narrative, AFS Documentary and AFS Young Filmmakers.