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Al Qasimi Foundation awards its first documentary film grant awards

Al Qasimi Foundation
September 29, 2016

Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, September 29, 2016 – The Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research is pleased to announce Emirati film director Abdulla Al Kaabi and Nigerian cinematographer Usman Oluwaseyi as the first-ever recipients of the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival Documentary Film Grant awards.

“The selection committee was impressed with the unique stories the filmmakers presented and believes the finished documentaries will provide new insights into the people and culture of the United Arab Emirates,” said Mr. Suqrat bin Bisher, Director of the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival.

“When you see the movie, you will connect with it,” said Mr. Oluwaseyi on his project, 7Emirates in 24, which documents five cyclists who bike a total distance of 467 kilometers across the seven emirates in one day. “With this film we hope to promote this particular sport throughout the region, encourage youth to be more active, and encourage the government to build more (cycling) tracks.”

Mr. Al Kaabi’s project, Bullfighting in the UAE, focuses on the lost tradition of bullfighting in the emirates, a custom that originally came to the region more than 400 years ago with the Portuguese. The documentary follows several bullfighters and explores how passion for the tradition spanned generations, leading to its long history and survival into present-day UAE culture.

“I’ve always had this idea of preserving heritage through film,” said Mr. Al Kaabi. “When I stumbled upon an email announcing the grant, I thought it was a calling from above so I took it as a sign and applied.”

The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival Documentary Film Grant was launched in 2015 to increase the number and range of stories presented on the United Arab Emirates and Gulf region. The award provides modest start-up funding to support talented young filmmakers and media professionals in developing their projects.

Bahraini film director Jamal Al Ghailan believes such funding is crucial to build recognition for the importance of short films.

“I have funded most of my movies, which is not easy,” says Mr. Al Ghailan. “Once you produce one movie, people expect you to keep coming out with new movies every year. This is not possible, especially for short film directors, new filmmakers, or low-budget films. We don’t make a profit out of such films – they don’t sell in big cinemas or on DVDs. To be able to compete in the West or outside our own country, filmmakers need funding and support.”

Mr. Oluwaseyi expressed similar sentiments when asked about how the award made a difference for his project.

“Receiving the grant award was very unexpected as this is was my first time applying for any type of grant. My co-director and I had planned to self-finance the project but this grant will give more quality to the film and add more production value.”

Part of a broader arts and culture initiative, the Al Qasimi Foundation sees the documentary film grant award as an important tool for bringing people together, sharing stories, and building understanding across cultures.

“Artistic endeavors play an important role in any society and culture,” says Mr. Bin Bisher. “The Foundation is keen to provide opportunities that will help spark new arts and culture initiatives across the northern emirates. Even modest support can make a big difference to those pursuing professions in the arts, and their collective efforts enrich the lives of all community members.”

“Filmmaking for cultural purposes has its limitations in our region, but with time, I do believe there is growing support,” says Mr. Al Kaabi. “We need all the support we can get since there is nothing more beautiful than this medium of art.”

Bullfighting in the UAE and 7Emirates in 24 are both set to premiere at the 5th annual Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival, which will take place February 17-23, 2017. For more information on the festival, please visit