The awards are out for this year's Dubai Film Festival. In the feature film competition, for the first time, Best Fiction Feature went to a Yemeni film.
Khadija al-Salami's I Am Nojoom, Aged 10 and Divorced (Yemen, UAE and France), is based on a true story, that of Nojood Ali who, aged only 10, made international headlines in 2009, when she ran away from a forced underage marriage, marched into court and filed for a divorce. Despite the repeated efforts of human rights activists and supportive lawmakers, to this day Yemen still has no legal minimum age for marriage.
It's a cause that is close to the filmmaker's heart, as she herself was married off to a much older relative aged only 11. After escaping the marriage, she supported herself by working in television then film and, until very recently, when Scottish-Yemeni filmmaker Sara Ishaq stepped into the limelight (with her Oscar-nominated short Karama Has No Walls and feature documentary Mulberry House), she was often referred to as Yemen's only woman filmmaker.
In I am Nojoom, al-Salami strongly condemns child marriage by telling the story from the child's point of view, writes Deborah Young for the Hollywood Reporter. But,"rather than turning the men into depraved monsters, al-Salami takes pains to show them as ignorant slaves of their customs and traditions, which are based on the idea that women bring shame to a household and a girl’s virginity is her father’s honour." The film's cinematographer is Victor Credi, who also shot Ibrahim el-Batout's Winter of Discontent.
While Best Non-Fiction went to Emirati film Nearby Sky, the Jury Prize went to Salim Abu Jabal's Roshmia (Palestine, UAE, Qatar and Syria). In the documentary, 80-year-old Yousef and his wife Amna have lived in a shack in the Roshmia Valley since 1956, but now the municipality of Haifa wants to demolish it to build a road. The film was co-edited by Egyptian editor Michael Youssef, who also edited Nadine Salib's Mother of the Unborn, a Hassala production recently awarded in Abu Dhabi and in Amsterdam.
Special Mentions went to Yacine Mohamed Benelhadj's narrative feature I'm Dead (Algeria and UAE), about a car thief who steals the wrong car, and to Yahya Abdallah's documentary The Council (Jordan and UAE), which follows the school council elections at a Palestinian school in Jordan.
In the short film competition, Best Film went to Hinde Boujemaa's And Romeo Married Juliette (Tunisia). Special Mentions went to Rami Yasin's In Overtime (Jordan and Palestine) and Karim Rahbani's With Thy Spirit (Lebanon).
Images: Roshmia and I Am Nojoom