UAE’s Ras Al-Khaimah Festival spotlights local jewelers, artists and filmmakers

The Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival is set to run until March 31, 2020. Instagram
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Updated 12 February 2020

UAE’s Ras Al-Khaimah Festival spotlights local jewelers, artists and filmmakers

DUBAI: The UAE’s Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (RAKFAF) recently kicked off its eighth edition in the Al-Jazirah Al-Hamra Heritage Village — a recently restored pearling village dating back to the 17th century.

The festival brings with it a packed program that includes thought-provoking exhibitions, keynote speeches and more than 100 local and international artists hailing from 33 different countries showcasing works that range from photography to film and visual arts under this year’s theme of “Connected Communities.”

Among the participating artists is Emirati jewelry artist Azza Al-Qubaisi, who is known for her cutting-edge jewelry painstakingly handmade out of precious materials such as white gold, silver and diamonds in addition to sands, leather and palm branches.

Born in Abu Dhabi, Al-Qubaisi shared that her Emirati heritage influences a lot of her work. “Most of the work I’ve created focuses on my environment. I want to capture the stories of the past, traditions and heritage,” she said to Arab News. “I think for me it’s about discovering more about me and my identity,” she added.

Citing the UAE’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, as one of her inspirations, the artist is also behind a slew of projects that aim to foster local talent and spotlight traditional crafts. In 2006, she founded the first NGO project to develop and promote local handicrafts through “Made in UAE” shops and Lamst Ibdaa, an Abu Dhabi-based initiative that nurtures the growth of aspiring design talent by offering them the support and resources they need.

Also participating at this year’s festival is Emirati filmmaker Hamad Abdullah Saghran. The filmmaker will be screening his short film “And What’s Next?” on the last Wednesday of February and March.

“Last year’s visit to RAKFAF encouraged me to prepare this film idea because I thought it would be a great opportunity to participate in a homegrown festival in my home Ras Al-Khaimah,” shared Saghran with Arab News.

The filmmaker who directed six short films between 2008 and 2016, will be the 2020 recipient of the Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival Film Grant. “Filmmaking is all about telling stories in a visual way. It’s like painting, but with more interactive elements. So, I love to tell stories and this is why I continue to make films,” he states.

The Ras Al-Khaimah Fine Arts Festival is set to run until March 31, 2020. 


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.