• Friend’s life-turning event inspired work by Emirati Alawadi showing at WOW Film Fair Middle East

Returning to Dubai cinema screens for a fourth edition next month,the unique film festival which champions the role of women in the movie industry brings together a trio of directors who credit their mothers for playing a key part in shaping their careers.

Emirati Maitha Alawadi, Saudi Mohammed Alsultan and American Tracey Anarella, all making their debut at the World of Women’s Cinema – WOW Film Fair Middle East, will each unveil stories about everyday heroines standing up for their values in the face of social injustice,prejudice and trauma.

Emirati Alawadi, who was the laureate of the prestigious Sheikh Majed Youth Media Award 2012, credits her mother’s support as the driving force that led her to becoming a director.

“I come from a female dominated household that held education above all else and encouraged individuality and ambition,” the 27-year-old said. “My mother and grandmother pushed me and my siblings to complete our education and always motivated us to pursue our dreams.”

A life-turning event of a friend in Australia led her to the making of ‘X’, a poetic narrative about a young woman facing a personal loss and expressing her inner struggle through dance.

Alawadi said: “It was my mother who pushed me to pursue education abroad, but at the same time she taught me the importance of holding onto our values, culture and traditions. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be where I am today.”

Taking place from 3 – 8 March and supported by the Australian governments Council for Australian Arab Relations (CAAR), the WOW Film Fair Middle East serves as a charity event, with all ticket proceeds being donated to the Islamic Affairs approved charity, the Al Jalila Foundation.

Held in association with VOX Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates, and at various locations such as A4 cinema at Al Serkal Avenue, the festival will showcase the finalists from 58 films created predominantly by female filmmakers, producers and screenwriters from 24 countries across five continents.

Directed by Alsultan, ‘Refuge’ tells the true story of a Syrian refugee, Dima Mawas, who was cast as the lead actress and finds herself again stranded in a foreign land, this time on the movie screen.

Saudi Alsultan says that in highlighting the talents of female cinematographers, the festival holds a special place in his heart as he is indebted to the women who have impacted both his career and personal development.

“All of our films have portrayed strong female roles and it’s amazing and humbling for us to work with so many talented international filmmakers who deserve to be recognised,” he said. “I’d like to thank all strong women in my life, especially my mother, who raised me, who showed me how to treat women with love and respect and who moulded me into the man I am today.”

Anarella’s film ‘Not Black Enough,’ about class hierarchy and racism, is also inspired by real life events and draws from her mother’s personal history.

“My mother is my role model,” she said. “She was an African-American woman born in 1930 and received her master’s degree was long before the U.S. government passed the Civil Rights Act. She feared nothing and no one.”

“What my mother instilled in me was the understanding that as long as I was educated, confident in my abilities, kind to everyone and afraid or no person or situation, I would be just fine in life. I hope my films will contribute to the opening of the window of opportunity for women and African-American documentary filmmakers.”

Maitha Alawadi’s ‘X’ and Tracey Anarella’s ‘Not Black Enough’ will be screened on 6 March while Mohammed Alsultan’s ‘Refuge’ will be played on 8 March at A4 Al Serkal Avenue.

In line with the fair’s mission to empower women in the Arab world, WOW’s organisers are now calling for nominations of individuals whose exceptional work contributes towards advancing females across six categories: Humanitarian of the Year, Business Leader of the Year, Personality of the Year, Sports leader of the Year, Rising talent Leader of the Year (Film Maker award), and Male Champion of Change. There are eight awards in total.

Nominations have been extended until 25 February and the Awards will be presented at the fair’s Charity Gala Dinner on the eve of International Women’s Day (7 March) at the Park Hyatt Dubai.

Movie goers who attend any of the WOW Film Fair screenings will have the opportunity to win a free Qantas return flight to Australia by simply writing their name on the back of their ticket and placing it into a drop box at each location. The winner will be announced on March 8th.

For individuals who wish to support WOW Film Fair Middle East and access the entire program including exclusive workshops, special screenings, seminars and networking events gathering the community of regional filmmakers – the organisers offer a monthly membership at AED100 a month which can be purchased online.

To find out the latest show information, submit an Award nomination, sign up for a membership and book tickets today, visit VOX cinemas, or follow the event on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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