A filmmaker’s short film on an Emirati bullied for being half-Filipino, is one of the films that will screened at the upcoming Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) this month.
The short film, titled ARASIAN, will be screened at Mall of the Emirates’ Vox Cinemas on December 11-12.
Khaleej Times previously reported that the film is loosely based on the filmmaker’s Emirati friend, Majid Abdalla Salim Almheiri, who was bullied throughout his school years for being half-Filipino, including an incident where the bullies cut his wrist and called him “dirty blood”.
The filmmaker, Ahmad Al Tunaiji, also an Emirati, hopes the public screening will send a strong message to people against bullying and racism. “I want this film to open a platform for my audience to discuss the issue among themselves and with others. The message I am getting across is that every Emirati is an Emirati, regardless of whether their bloodline is pure or mixed,” Al Tunaiji told Khaleej Times.
“The definition of identity is, or should be, based on more than one’s genes. I love the UAE, its culture, traditions and language, and consider myself blessed to have been born here. I also want for every Emirati, regardless of their specific background, to be able to feel the same way I do about our country.”
Al Tunaiji’s film follows a 14-year-old Khalifa, who struggles with his half-Filipino heritage. He tries to hide his Filipina mother and a Filipina school maid, who he has befriended, from the school bullies out of fear that he will be the target of racist attacks.
He does come face-to-face with his bullies eventually, leaving Khalifa to decide whether he wants to “look cool” or be proud of and defend his heritage.
Al Tunaiji was inspired to do the film after his friend Almheiri’s horrific real life experiences.
“The film tackles a very sensitive and important issue we have here in the UAE, one that needs to be addressed. I am really glad and excited to be able to share my work with a such a large audience, given this is the world premiere for ARASIAN,” Al Tunaiji said.
The filmmaker believes the screening is a huge stepping stone for his career. “When I graduated from university, the first thing I wanted to do was share this film with a larger audience. The day I found out it made it among Diff’s official selections, I was extremely honoured and humbled,” he said.
“This is my first festival submission and being part of Diff, surrounded by great filmmakers and figures means that we first-time directors will get great exposure for our work.”