Dubai, UAE – Nayla Al Khaja’s short film Animal, has won the Jury Special Prize for “Best Short Fiction” at the 9th Italian Movie Award in Pompeii, Italy, in September 2017.
Produced, written and directed in the United Arab Emirates by Nayla Al Khaja, Animal is a 13-minute drama fiction about a 7-year old girl growing up in a home ruled with an iron fist by a ferocious and domineering father, an “A+ sociopath and narcissist”. The dynamics of what plays out when her father is juxtaposed against his weakling, yet selfishly ambitious mother, and their merry flamboyant cook makes one wonder how the child survives in the midst of such contradictions.
Shot in Dubai and starring Mohammed Ahmed, as the father, Venetia Tiarks, as the mother, and Donya Asi, as the daughter, the film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival in December 2016, and was nominated for the Muhr Emirati Awards. The movie received a warm public welcome from DIFF attendees, along with extremely positive reviews in the Middle Eastern media. The Italian Movie Award’s jury chose Animal among the 70 short films in competition.
Sharing her first impressions after receiving the prize, Nayla Al Khaja declared: “I’m extremely proud to represent the UAE in a global cinema competition gathering incredibly talented directors from all over the world. This is a milestone in the Emirati film industry and for the entire nation.” Asked about the expected impact of the award, she concluded: “Undoubtedly, it will be a source of inspiration for my peers and all the young aspiring talents in the region.”
Nayla Al Khaja already produced, wrote and directed award-winning films and she is the first and only Emirati director to be rewarded twice in international film festivals for her work. She was awarded the title of Best Emirati Filmmaker at DIFF 2007 for her first short film, Arabana, about child abuse. She wrote and directed three more films. Malal received the Muhr Emirati Award at DIFF 2010 and The Neighbor was awarded Best Emirati Film at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Film Festival. She also received the award of Best Film at the Middle East Film Festival in Florence. To date, her films have participated in over 42 festivals worldwide.
For its 9th edition, the festival – created by Carlo Fumo, the famous Italian movie director and screenwriter – already held two international events in the New York and Moscow, and will have its usual ceremony at Pompeii, Italy, from 10 to 17 September. Movie screenings, documentaries, short films on the theme “Roots”, and the Italian Movie Masterclass, are the key moments of this international event. This year is also marked by the presence of the Italian-American film director Martin Scorsese.
The Italian Movie Award is closely connected to the Cannes Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, the Russia-Italia Film Festival and the Toko Film Fest, among others. Cinema artists and personalities from Italy and from all over the world are attending the festival and since inception, it has acknowledged more than 140,000 certified presences in 60 total days of events in 20 different locations in Italy and abroad. To date, more than 4,000 projects have been presented to the juries, with 250 of them selected and screened in their own categories.