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Dubai Documentary Filmmaker Seeks Grant for Postgraduate Course

Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi, The National
August 18, 2015

A filmmaker is hoping to raise more than Dh50,000 through crowdfunding so she can start a postgraduate course in New York.

Nagham Osman, 34, an Egyptian, received a grant from the Abu Dhabi Film Festival’s Sanad Award in 2013 to make a documentary and needs about Dh110,000 to pay for the first year of a three-year master’s degree in fine arts from New York University, for fees not covered by a partial scholarship.

She has managed to raise more than half of this through the fundraising website.

She now hopes to raise the remaining amount within two weeks, when her degree program starts.

Ms. Osman, who was born in Dubai, said she hoped that someone from this country would help her.

“The UAE is playing a very big role in supporting upcoming filmmakers and visual artists in the region,” she said. “I am happy that the country where I formed my best memories has continued to support me.”

She said that after she had finished her degree, her education could be invaluable to other filmmakers in the region.

“I want to return and share my knowledge with other young filmmakers and collaborate with them on projects. I hope to bring about change through my work,” she said.

Ms. Osman said she could not turn to her family for support as her both parents had passed away. “Being an only child I have to depend on myself with limited means as an independent woman, which is very rare in an Arab country,” she said.

“My annual salary is insufficient, and it would take me more than six years to earn that much,” she said.

Sheikh Sultan Al Qassemi, the founder of Barjeel Art Foundation, who also contributed during Ms. Osman’s fundraising effort, said that she was a talented filmmaker. “She has already produced great films including one about her late mother,” she said. “A master’s degree would help her develop her skills.”

Sheikh Sultan said that he encouraged UAE students and residents, including filmmakers and entrepreneurs, to utilize crowdfunding. “More attention needs to be paid to arts and cultural education in the Middle East, especially at a time when our own cultural treasures are under threat,” he said.

Soha Shami, an educationist and research associate at the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, said using crowdfunding to pay for educational courses was growing in popularity.

“It forces students, who may not otherwise have the ability to pursue their studies, to think outside the box in terms of how they can persuade others that they are deserving of the educational opportunity in front of them,” she said.

Kashif Arbab, the chief executive of Envestors Mena, a Dubai company that connects entrepreneurs with investors, said that crowdfunding was a good tool, but sometimes investors may demand the money back.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch and lending money for a good reason such as eduction with the intention of getting repaid would be more effective than just giving money away.

“It’s up to the lender whether to charge any interest or not, but receiving the capital back would allow them to at least redirect the money in the future to another needy student,” said Mr Arbab.

Ms Osman, however, said the money she had collected so far had been gifts from friends and strangers.

“I am grateful to all of them who showed faith in me, and I promise they will never regret it,” she said.