Earlier this month, the works of 11 Kuwaiti directors were showcased at the old Ghurnata Cinema in Kuwait. A local filmmaking-talent promotion initiative that is also a charity fundraiser, SHIFT Film Night was organized by Kuwait Healthy Living, a non-profit organisation whose goal and purpose is to enhance quality of life in Kuwait through education, awareness and advocacy.

Shift Film Night is just one of the many initiatives under the Kuwait Healthy Living umbrella. Previous initiatives included Laugh for Life 2011 (a comedy night charity fundraiser), Women Health Week 2012, Youth Internship Programme 2011 and World Diabetes Day 2010.

Some of the attendees included KISR’s head Dr. Naji Al-Mutairi who came with his daughter. “I heard about the event from my colleagues,” adding that he knew director Abdulla Awadh, whose film Tedium was screened.

Another attendee, N.S., stated that one of the directors was her son’s friend, but that on that specific day, she was here for all Kuwaiti directors. “If filmmaking is emerging as a talent within our children, we should support them in every way possible. The reason Kuwait lost its golden age of art, theatre, and film, is because there is no longer emotional or financial support. We need to pat our children on the back and tell them, good for you instead of making them ashamed of their goals and dreams, because a country is not just based on science, politics and religion, but also on its culture. And we want to bring back the thriving culture that Kuwait had in the sixties.”

The lovely enthusiastic mother is certainly doing her part, adding that she has followed director Faisal Al-Nashmi’s progress for a long time, and has even given him feedback on occasion.

Perhaps the most support Kuwaiti filmmakers are getting is from each other. Meqdad Al-Kout states, “We all pitch in, we all help each other,” adding that he’s met most Kuwaiti filmmakers at the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai where he screened all of his films. More support exists within Cinemagics, which Al-Kout announced is co-producing his next film.

Cinemagics also co-produced my personal favorite film that night, Sharq, by director Abdulaziz Al-Sharhan. In it, a group of young boys from Jahra run off in an adventure to the city of Sharq, in search of the perfect soccer ball. Acted by a charming group of boys and full of funny, realistic dialogue, it made for quite a few laughs.

The other films spanned an array of topics from Kuwait’s beauty (Kuwait Under the Clouds by Ali Younis) to the high strung emotions of Kuwaiti students studying abroad at the time of the Iraqi invasion (Heart of Palm by Faisal Al Nashmi). Then there was Shanab, a tongue-in-cheek comedy about a Kuwaiti man living in the seventies, unable to grow a mustache (all the rage at that time).

Finally, capping off the evening was Dana Al-Mojil’s Wonderland: A True Story. This was a highly original Kuwaiti-flavored interpretation of the classic Alice in Wonderland. The film had won an award at last year’s Gulf Film Festival and was screened on both nights of the fundraiser.

Screened at Kuwait’s oldest standing theatre, the event was quite well organized, despite it starting a bit later than scheduled. Movie-goers were given the option of either purchasing their tickets online (in which case they were delivered to their homes) or at Bayt Lothan. The tickets cost 5 KD and were sold out for the first night.

We commend Kuwait Healthy Living for hosting a charity event that promotes one of the most underrepresented fields in the country, the film industry, as they believe that Kuwaiti film productions have not received the attention and acclaim they deserve.

Promoting the idea of 'giving back to Kuwait and society', Kuwait Healthy Living wants to develop the culture of non-profit and decrease the commercialization in society and do things "just for the sake of Kuwait".

"We celebrate Kuwaiti arts and culture because we feel it is important to reconnect youth with their culture and heritage," says the organization.

Here's to more charitable, and entertaining, events like SHIFT.

– Huda Al-Ateeqi

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