Six UAE screenwriters on Shasha Grant Shortlist
The Abu Dhabi Film Commission's annual screenwriting
competition, the Shasha Grant, received 123 submissions, with
nearly a quarter of the qualifying entries coming from the UAE. The
shortlist of twenty scripts includes six from the UAE. Saudi-born
filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour is preparing to go into production on
her first feature,Wajda, the winning script for 2009.As
reported in The National, the Shasha Grant
is open to all film scripts as long as there is a connection to the
Middle East. For the first time in its four years, the competition
accepted scripts in Arabic. More than 40 per cent of the total
entries were in the UAE's native language, with 11 in Arabic making
the penultimate cut. The names of the shortlisted screenwriters and
their scripts are posted on the Abu Dhabi Film Commission
A panel of readers from the United States, Australia, the United
Kingdom and Jordan will select six finalists from the shortlist;
those advancing in the competition will be announced on September
20. Two of the readers have Arabic roots.
At the Abu Dhabi Film Commission's Circle Conference, to be held
October 13-15, international film producers will help the finalists
fine-tune their scripts and coach them to make a pitch to a
committee of international studio executives. These executives will
choose the winner of the US$100,000 prize.
The 2009 winner, Haifaa Al Mansour, also earned a first-look
deal with Imagenation Abu Dhabi, which will co-produce her first
feature, Wajda, along with Berlin-based Razor Film. Ms. Al
Mansour is the first female filmmaker to emerge from Saudi Arabia,
where cinemas have been banned for more than three decades. Her
first short film, Who?, about a serial killer who
disguises himself as a Saudi woman, was an Internet hit.
In an interview with Screendaily's Liz Shackleton, Ms. Al
Mansour spoke about her documentary Women Without Shadows,
a winner in the 2006 Emirates Film Competition, for which she
interviewed women in her hometown in eastern Saudi Arabia. After
the oil boom, migration to the big cities and an increase in
Islamist movements fueled a growing conservatism. "I talked to all
these women and found that they used to live in a simple society,
where women were not as active as men, but they were allowed to
work and go to the market and there were some freedoms."
Wajda also examines the society's restrictions on
women: this coming-of-age story is about a little girl who is
determined to get a bicycle despite the fact that women in Saudi
Arabia are not allowed to participate in outdoor activities. For
the director, "the film is really about the spirit and how we can
The film will hopefully start production by the end of the year.
Even though Ms. Al Mansour would like an "authentic presentation of
the culture," it is highly unlikely to be filmed in Saudi Arabia.
She had wanted to open a production company in her native country,
but that would have required hiring a male manager to run it for
her. Educated at the America University in Cairo, the up-and-coming
filmmaker presently splits her time between Saudi Arabia and the
United States, but she is planning to move to Bahrain, where Saudis
will sometimes travel in order to see films.
Liz Shackleton's full interview with Ms. Al Mansour is on the
Screendaily website, but is primarily
accessible only to subscribers.