Finding Mr. & Mrs. right, the universal mission to find one’s perfect partner has just been “Emirati-nized”. We certainly never thought we’d one day see someone attempt to delve into the complex sea of marriage and relationships in the Gulf, yet alone shoot a whole documentary around it, and actually succeed.
Directed by Hind Al Hammadi (below on the right) and Elham Sharaf (below on the left), senior students majoring in Applied Communications at the Dubai Women’s College, “Finding Mr. & Mrs. Right: Dubai Style” is a documentary that revolves around the trials and tribulations of Dubai’s new generation as they search for their perfect match. The documentary deals with different opinions towards finding one’s ideal partner amidst local culture’s expectations and traditions, and the modern concept of “freedom”; all discussed through a series of shared thoughts that people declared towards topics such as flirting, family expectations, and the characteristics of their ideal partner.
“Finding Mr. & Mrs. Right: Dubai Style,” started off as a class project that included 14 Emirati female students, but suddenly resulted in a highly applauded short-film that won 3rd place in the Gulf Film Festival.
Khaleejesque caught up with the aspiring directors, and brings you the 411 about “Finding Mr. & Mrs. Right: Dubai Style.”
Khaleejesque Team: What was the reason behind choosing such an interesting topic to base your film on?
Hind Al Hammadi: We chose this topic because it’s very sensitive and controversial in our society; people here prefer not to be asked about marriage or talk about their needs. There is no freedom to discuss how we want our partner to be like. Our documentary gives youth in the UAE a chance to talk freely about different topics that revolve around marriage, such as how one believes their ideal should be like? Do they support getting married from a foreigner? What are the best ways to get married? Do they support arranged marriages and why? The documentary also reflects very important values to the young generation and teaches them how to take the right steps in life.
KT: We're sure there must have been different views about the film, what were some of the responses you got towards it at the start?
Elham Sharaf: We got different responses from different categorizes of people in the UAE. Some people posted comments on our Facebook group saying that this documentary should be banned in the UAE, even though it was not even screened at that time. But thankfully, the majority of people loved it so much and viewed it as a huge step towards discussing sensitive issues and giving youth the chance to express themselves freely.
KT: How did you get answers for the many questions posed and opinions shot in the film?
HH: Our documentary is mainly based on interviews with young people aged between 20-30. We had an interview with a woman who arranges marriages- a matchmaker (“Khataba” in Arabic)- she answered many of our questions and gave us some statistics; but we didn’t include her in the documentary we just kept her as a reference.
KT: Did you expect the movie to be this big and have regional tremors, such as winning the Gulf Film Festival?
ES: We worked very hard to make the documentary as best we could. The whole process took four months from actually shooting it to finally editing it.
HH: We also came up with a marketing plan for it, which better publicized it, thereby getting support from local filmmakers and other people in the industry. We really expected the documentary to be very successful, and thank God it became a success.
KT: We heard you had a full house when the movie was screened for the first time. Can you elaborate on the reviews you got from the masses?
HH: When it was first screened at the Gulf Film Festival in April this year, it was more than a full house, we had people standing, some even sitting on the stairs of the theatre. The audience’s response was very positive, a lot of people congratulated us on the success of the documentary. After the first screening, we had different media requesting us for interviews on TV and newspapers; “Finding Mr. & Mrs. Right Dubai Style” was all over the place.
KT: Was the movie screened outside the UAE?
ES: It hasn’t been screened outside the UAE yet, but we received invitations from Film Festivals in Spain, India and Jordan; we will be applying for them soon. In the meantime, we can’t have any public screenings because we are participating in Dubai International Film Festival, which will take a place in December this year, and one of the requirements of the Festival is not to have any screenings till the Festival is over. After that we might make it available for purchase, for example in Virgin Mega Store or other video shops.
KT: A lot of people in the Gulf are camera-shy, how did you manage to get actors? Were they all locals?
HH: Most of the people who had appeared in our documentary were random or were university students. They were so willing to be questioned about this topic, and really wanted to voice their opinions. We also had some staged scenes, ones that included a well-known actress playing the role of the bride; she was very happy to do that for free since we are students and we can’t afford hiring such a paid Actress. As Media Students we get a lot of support from all the people around us, they put their trust in us, and believe that we can efficiently use the media as a weapon to create change.
KT: Would you say that there is sufficient recognition and support locally or regionally (in the Gulf) for film making and the art of short movies?
ES: We believe there is sufficient support and recognition locally and regionally by governments and some NGOs. For example in the UAE there are different foundations that give grants for filmmakers as well as two International Film Festivals and two Gulf Film Festivals that are staged every year in the UAE. A lot of movies get accepted and screened in these festivals allowing young Arab Filmmakers to benefit and build bigger film projects. But there are very few acting schools in the Arab region and that makes it very hard for filmmakers to find a good cast. Still, there are a few theatre and drama groups around that are fairly good.
KT: What's next in line for you? Any new moves or ventures?
HH: I’m planning to establish a media group that will work on raising awareness and deliver messages about different issues and causes in the UAE such as the water crisis, obesity, divorce, smoking, and so on. It’s just an idea that I will be working on soon with other students from my class as a civic engagement project. As a media student I feel that I carry the responsibility of raising awareness and allowing the youth to speak about their needs freely but with limits through our films, documentaries or public service announcements that we produce.
KT: Is there anything else you'd like to say or a message to the masses?
ES: Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to show and share our work with others who might be interested and inspired. We work the hardest when we are inspired by other people’s achievements and hope we can inspire others to excel.