Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Amal Al-Agoobi, an up-and-coming documentary filmmaker from United Arab Emirates. She is the director of the documentary short, Half Emirati, which recently screened at the Dubai International Film Festival on December 9, 2012.
Half Emirati discusses the social implications of mixed marriages for natives of the United Arab Emirates, a nation where the local population only makes up about 10-15%. This is a personal subject for Amal Al-Agoobi; She is half Emirati and half Syrian. Although she is from UAE, she grew up in Belgium which gave her a very European upbringing. She had a very strong sense of who she was, much due to supportive parents who made sure she got Arabic lessons, religion (Islam), and learned good morals. Being immersed in European culture gave her both perspective and interest on the subject of mixed marriages in her native country. 'Half Emiratis' are often bullied in UAE and Al-Agoobi wanted those individuals to share their stories.
When I asked her what statement she'd like to make with her film, Al-Agoobi said her hope is that people will come away from the film believing that "being a part of two cultures, two worlds...is a positive thing." It allows one to become more open-minded and more understanding.
Half Emirati is getting a lot of attention at this year's Dubai International Film Festival. I was surprised when Al-Agoobi said that she didn't encounter many conflicts making her film. I felt that being a female filmmaker from a Middle-Eastern country while tackling this subject matter would bring bring many obstacles. On the contrary, she said that people were amazingly supportive.
"An Emirati male director had loaned us the space and optix digital media supported us with post-production. My producer was very spot on and because I'm a woman, I actually get more attention and more care. It's no secret that women in the UAE are beginning to drive the country forward in all sectors of every industry."
Some of the subjects she interviews heard about the film and wanted to take part. Others she knew personally. Only a few documentary subjects backed out, saying "they were ashamed of their mothers or fathers... and didn't want people to find out they were 'mixed.' "
Amal Al-Agroobi is shocked at the amount of press she's been getting.
"I've been interviewed by national TV channels and international news channels because they all feel it's a big step coming out with a film like this."
I wish her the very best of luck as she moves forward.
© Copyright 2012 by KLiedle
Dubai International Film Festival