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Film Festival II: A New Opportunity for Youth

Head of EU in Yemen awards the first short film winner Faris Anam of the first film
festival december 9th, 2012

Asma Al-Mohattwari 

Following the great success of Yemen’s first major film festival, a wide promotional campaign has been started in all of Yemen’s provinces to announce the launch of its successor, the Second Yemen Film Festival.

Under the slogan “With unleashed imagination and a competitive spirit, you will be the strongest!”, the Second Yemen Film Festival (YFF) will kick off its activities on December 4th 2013, in conjunction with the end of the National Dialogue Conference in Sana’a.

The festival’s aims are threefold. The festival will spotlight the young cadres of Yemeni media by showcasing their works in a public forum. Through its inclusive entrant requirements, it seeks to provide an opportunity for youths to express their creativity. And among both audiences and filmmakers, the festival intends to promote and support Yemen’s film and filmmaking culture.

The organizers of the second festival are keen to build on the success of the festival’s first run—and simultaneously to avoid the missteps made during the first attempt. The second festival will feature several new additions to the festival experience; one such example is a special prize that will be offered to the youngest director, in order to better encourage filmmakers of all ages to participate and submit entries.

The organizers have also raised a cash prize to be presented to the winners, and have granted full freedom to all festival participants to use any camera, no matter how simple. This is yet another technique to encourage as many young people to participate as possible.

The YFF organizers did specify certain topics for film submissions. Filmmaker’ must choose between the themes of “the culture of dialogue,” “tolerance and acceptance of others,” and “patriotism” when creating their pieces.

Highly motivated and creative people, eager to prove themselves in the worlds of media and cinematography, participate in the festival by submitting original films to be viewed and judged by audience members. Many participants hope that their films will aid in the elevation of Yemeni films, and perhaps even be chosen for screening or submission in international film festivals.

Opinions on the festival vary widely among Yemen’s youth, but all agree that it is a great opportunity for young people go participate and share their ideas and views.
Mubarak al-Bahar, a youth representative in the National Dialogue Conference, said that the YFF is a new idea and will help create a better future for Yemen. “The YFF inspires optimism in all Yemenis, especially among young people,” he stated.

Films are a simple, convenient way to discuss a wide array of issues with people from different backgrounds; films also tend to penetrate deep into people’s minds and leave a lasting impression. Such was the perspective of Ahlam Ahmed, a Yemeni student. She viewed the festival’s key importance in its establishment of a platform to discuss Yemen’s most prominent problems in an easy way.

“We all talk and discuss many issues without really connecting with the Yemeni people. Films are difference: films can reach people from all levels of society,” Ahlam said.

Fares Anam won first place in the original festival. He said that the festival provides a wonderful opportunity for all youth—even those who might not have originally planned to participate.

“I participated in the first festival conducted in Yemen; I wrote and directed a film for the first time of my life. It was a humble submission, and none of us—neither my friends who helped me make my movie nor me—expected we would win the first rank in the festival. There were beautiful and strong movies, but our idea and message of the film were so strong and deep.”

The Second Yemen Film Festival is enjoying a mass media campaign, and most of Yemen’s youth have learned about it through banners in the streets, phone messages and posters spread throughout Yemen’s cities. Radfan al-Mohamdi, chairman of the Arab Forum for Fine Arts, said that when he saw a poster promoting the Festival in the street he felt great satisfaction.

“For the first time I saw the Yemen Film Festival I had first imagined more than five years ago, and one day we will compete with other Arab countries, like Tunisia or Egypt, in international film festivals as well,” he prophesied.

Fares al-Sanabani, director of the Yemen Film Festival, also has big plans for the festival. His words should give hope to the dreams of Radfan and Yemen’s youth. The third Yemen Film Festival, he says, will feature contributions from across the Arab world.