SHARJAH GOVERNMENT MEDIA BUREAU - SHARJAH, May 20, 2019– Government support or state patronage is vital to create good, world-class cinema for children in the Arab world, stressed leading actors and filmmakers last night (Sunday). They were speaking during the third session of Sharjah Ramadan Majlis at Al Majaz Amphitheatre, hosted by Sharjah Press Club of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau, in partnership with the Sharjah Broadcasting Authority.
The Arts session of Sharjah Ramadan Majlis titled ‘Children’s Cinema…Responsibilities and Values’ was moderated by popular television presenter Saeed Al Maamari in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Council and a select audience of senior officials, artists, children and members of media.
Veteran Egyptian actor Abdel Rahman Abu Zahra, who has acted in dozens of popular films, television and stage plays produced for children, emphasised that producing cinema and entertainment for children is no child’s play and needs strong financial support and patronage from governments.
Lamenting the state of children’s cinema in the Arab world, Abu Zahra said: “To produce good children’s cinema, you have to look at the world from children’s perspective, giving them the importance and respect they genuinely deserve. Children need to be taken seriously and treated as equals of adults.”
Sharing his own experience of working in children’s films and television programmes, Abu Zahra said that it is important to love children to be accepted by them as their friends and equals. “I genuinely love children and they love me in return. What is spoken from heart touches heart,” he added.
The veteran Egyptian actor stressed that while family support is essential to encourage creativity in children and bring out their potential, the state support or government patronage is critical to guide and financially support children’s cinema and television industry in the Arab world. The industry has been going through a serious crisis, he warned.
Urging parents and elders to encourage their children to express themselves, he said: “Family is the foundation of a child’s growth and creativity. Many families simply kill their children’s creativity by ignoring their natural flair and potential.”
Popular Emirati filmmaker Nahla Al Fahad agreed with him calling for a major push to create positive and healthy cinema and television content for children in the UAE and the Arab world that is in harmony with the Arab and Islamic values and traditions.
“While unlike our generation children today in the UAE and Arab world have many more options for entertainment, thanks to the explosion of media and technology, much of this content is imported and needs to be monitored and carefully filtered. “All of it is not suitable for our children. We have to think about our own values and traditions that come in direct clash with what is reflected in these films and television programmes,” emphasised Al Fahad.
Need Our Own Storytellers
The Emirati filmmaker said that although the UAE has a small film industry, its scope is even more limited when it comes to producing good cinema and television for children. “As a result we do not have many films in the UAE or even at the GCC level for children. We need good storytellers and stories that children really love and can relate to,” Al Fahad added.
She called on the UAE government and governments in the region to allocate annual budget for film and television industry and support it in every possible way to produce good, healthy entertainment for children who represent our future.
Popular Kuwaiti actor Khalid Al Buraiki lamented that the Arab world has neglected this vital segment of population all these years. There are so many television channels and a whole film industry dedicated to children in the West, he pointed out.
“Unfortunately, all these years we have had no film and television industry that exclusively targeted children’s entertainment. As a result, our children are simply growing up watching Western and foreign films and television programmes that are not really meant for them. Our children are all familiar with every character in films produced by Walt Disney. But why are they not watching our own films and learning about our own heroes and values? We must start at least now and prepare for the future. We have enough of our own stories to attract children,” said Al Buraiki.
Foreign Influences on Children
He pointed out that there was a time when across the region there used to be good television programmes targeting children that were especially aired during the holy month of Ramadan. “They had a message for children. Today children simply go online and watch Western films and television shows during these times,” he added.
He lamented that governments in the region have simply abandoned children’s film and television industry. “As a result, the industry finds itself in dire straits. We do not have any films that tell good, positive stories to our children and celebrate Arab and Islamic values and traditions. Our children are growing up unaware of our past and admiring foreign cultures and values,” said Al Buraiki.
Over the past seven years, the Sharjah Ramadan Majlis has been hosting leading opinion makers, intellectuals and artists from across the Arab world and attracting wide popular interest throughout the region. The third session of the Ramadan Majlis was attended among others by HE Dr Khalid Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media City (Shams), HE Mohammed Hassan Khalaf, Director General of Sharjah Broadcasting Authority, HE Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of Sharjah Government Media Bureau, HE Hassan Yaqoob Al Mansouri, Secretary General of Sharjah Media Council, and others.