Introducing H.H Sheikha Jawaher Bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, the Director of FUNN and SICFF. Funn is an organisation that promotes and supports media and arts, including; animation, film making and graphic design, for children and young people in Sharjah and the UAE. Whereas Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF) takes place every October, and it was launched in 2013- it is the first children film festival in the country and the region.
FUNN as an organisation, aims to create opportunities in new media through the hosting of workshops, seminars, conferences and festivals. The organisation aspires to form a network of talented children and youth, enabling them to connect locally and internationally to facilitate greater exposure and appreciation of their work and to inspire them to choose a career in the film industry.
FUNN’s ultimate goal is to foster talent through its activities and events, and to also form a close-knit community of skilled and dynamic young people- who can share their experiences and expertise on a global scale, through the promotion of their media work at film festivals across the world.
The Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival is dedicated to enhance the media literacy of children and young people, foster children’s creativity and showcase the very best in filmmaking for, by and about children and young people.
The festival plays an essential role in bringing international films and new media content, for youth and children in the region. It exposes them to world cultures and promotes peace, tolerance and global understanding of how people from different cultures, religions and backgrounds live together in this world.
Why did you choose to concentrate within media in particular i.e film making and graphic design, rather than experimental arts such as mixed media, sculpture or creative writing for FUNN?
It was an idea of mine; Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, the wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, I wanted to start a children’s film festival to focus their creativity in film-making, videography and the media arts. FUNN was therefore established in 2012, as a media arts hub for young people. I strongly believe this is something that is needed in Sharjah, as a teenager, I loved photography and searched for workshops that could help me grow in this field. However, I was unable to find any- training in graphics, animation and photography was at that time difficult to come across in Sharjah.
FUNN aims to address this dearth of opportunity by providing resources that will help children in the UAE become involved in media, arts and film-making, which globally is a vibrant, dynamic and fast-growing field. The organisation hopes to play a critical role to bridge cultural gaps, and foster connectivity between children and youth around the world- which I think they need in this fast-paced global culture where definitions of identity are rapidly changing. Therefore, nurturing filmmakers is important because images go a long way in showcasing one’s perspectives to the world and changing people’s mind-sets, especially in this age of social media.
In terms of numbers, how many children who participated in FUNN’s activities have went on to study this further within education, and strongly consider it as a future, rather than just a hobby?
Each year around five of the children who have participated at FUNN’s various events have gone on to formal study in this field, as the activities and workshops we provide sparked their interest and gave them a platform to express themselves. They informed us that they found the arena to be a very dynamic one that held a great deal of potential for growth, development and personal fulfilment. In a sphere that fosters innovation and creativity, these young people feel they have a lot to add. In that sense, they wanted to pursue what they love at a more academic level so that they will have a better chance to gain a rewarding career as adults. One student had a complete career path in engineering, and after being part of FUNN for a while, he changed his major into media.
How do you see the balance between creativity and academics?
Dedication to education does not in any way contradict interest in creativity and the arts. On the contrary, growing one’s creative side will definitely add a positive energy to one’s education. It enables one to see things from a different perspective and more critically. Creativity is an essential part of education, as it opens up parts of the brain that enhance the processing of information.
With your objective to promote new media work and films made by children and youth in the UAE, international film festivals and conferences, do you think this is the main incentive of joining these programmes, or is it also to learn about new fields and skills?
Our message at FUNN is to enable children and young people to become exposed to new fields and skills, as well as to promote their work. We aspire to encourage them to learn new things and to meet new people, which ultimately is our objective in participating in these events. FUNN is all about children learning, having a platform to communicate with others, understanding their culture through the context of media arts and getting to grips with techniques in filmmaking.
What’s the next event, festival or conference planned for FUNN?
We have a few workshops and events planned in the summer, such as the Children Jurors judging and a Scanography event, and of course the Sharjah International Children Film Festival happening in October!
Aside from FUNN, are there any other activities or organizations that you are actively involved in?
I am a board member in the Arab Film Institute, as well as a board member in Friends of Cancer Patients. I am a mother of two beautiful children; my family is the most important institute ever!