Book written by Dubai prison inmates launched at UAE literature festival

The book was launched at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in the UAE. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 February 2020

Book written by Dubai prison inmates launched at UAE literature festival

  • ‘Tomorrow, I Will Fly’ is a collection of essays and stories penned entirely by convicts from the city’s penal and correctional institutions

DUBAI: A book written by inmates held in Dubai prisons was launched on Thursday at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in the UAE.

The event hosted the release of the ground-breaking publication “Tomorrow, I Will Fly,” a collection of essays and stories penned entirely by convicts from the city’s penal and correctional institutions.

A first of its kind in the Arab world, the book is the culmination of a year-long project by British international best-selling writers Clare Mackintosh and Annabel Kantaria.

During the launch, both authors shared their experiences as writers-in-residence at the prisons. After visiting a jail last year as part of the program, Mackintosh and Kantaria saw an opportunity to develop the initiative and help the prisoners find their voices and tell their stories.

Following a week of intense creative writing workshops with a group of male and female inmates, the resulting collection of essays and personal reflections were collated in the anthology.

“Writing can be an extremely effective way of processing thoughts, experiences and emotions, bringing long-term benefits for mental health, and in turn reducing the risk of reoffending,” said Ahlam Bolooki, director of the literature festival.

“The results of this project could be potentially life-changing. We hope this ongoing initiative will continue to make a positive contribution to the outcomes for inmates in Dubai and elsewhere.”

Copies of the book will be made available to other prisons in the UAE, the Arab world and further afield, including jails in the UK.


Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 

The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air.