"The freedom of the short film relative to the long film lies in the possibilities of using metaphor and other literary devices to tell the story, a luxury not available in the commercially driven, realism-oriented long film."
~ Ken Dancyger (author)
Echoing the thoughts of this author, I believe a short-film has a life of its own, which once experienced stays with a person forever. It was this belief that led me to attend SHIFT III, which for the third year running was celebrating Kuwaiti short-films and feeding the starving sensibilities of like-minded viewers.
So, on the breezy evening of 21 April, I went over to the newly renovated Al Shaheed Park, and followed the red-arrowed boards reading 'SHIFT' to arrive at the screening of some of the most expressive short-films I have seen in recent times. I found a comfortable bean bag from among the hundreds strewn around the open garden and sat down with a bag of popcorn to watch the visual extravaganza on the large 4x6meter LED screen.
For the last two years, SHIFT (interpreted as "to have seen", in Arabic) has been promoting one of the most under-represented fields in the country, the film industry, which sadly has not received the attention and acclaim it deserves. My initial skepticism and assumptions about the content selected for the screening, it was after-all being held under the auspices of the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs, were luckily proved wrong.
One of the reasons the event turned out to be so amazing was perhaps because it was championed by two young and resourceful ladies. The first, the Director of Kuwait Healthy Living (KHL), Sheikha Bibi Salem Al Sabah, has been lovingly enhancing quality of life in Kuwait through education, awareness and advocacy. The other, Undersecretary of Youth Affairs, Sheikha Zein Al Nasser Al Sabah has often been the voice and face of contemporary Kuwaiti and Middle-East cinema on the global movie scene.
The short-films screened at SHIFT III, unlike movies produced by many ‘up and coming’ filmmakers, carried eloquence, a message and most importantly an artistic, aesthetic take on story-telling.
The audience experienced the convincing depiction of dilemmas and doldrums by the films’ characters and let a few sighs, laughs and exchanges slip out at intense moments in the films.
The curious and daring kid Hussein, the lead protagonist of Yousef Al-Abdullah's excellently cinematographed film, 'Ignorant', was a particularly convincing character. Ignorant, revolves around Hussein, who is the subject of ridicule by his father, when he asks him a question on the value and sizes of coins. His father asks Hussein to raise the question with the Minister of Finance and leaves it at that. But, Hussein, bold as he is, is up early next morning in front of the Minister of Finance.
Mishal Al Hulail's comical 'Tea with Milk', very much mirrors the real-life relationships of Kuwaitis and immigrant workers. The story gathers pace when Ahmed realizes his father, Bu Ahmed, is involved in the business of bringing immigrant workers to the country and renting houses cheaply to them, which upsets the local mobsters who kidnap him. In his attempt to find his father Ahmed meets the three workers, an Indian, an Arab and a Filipino at various restaurants where he is repeatedly offered Indian ‘tea with milk’ or as one of the characters likes to call it, ‘milk with tea’.
Director Sadeq Behbehani's ‘The Carpet’ which had its world premiere in Dubai featured Hammoud, who works in a store selling carpets but embroils in a plot to steal carpets from the warehouse. In Yousef Al Bagshi’s ‘Sandarah’ which also premiered in Dubai, the protagonist is a young photographer who finds himself surrounded by hardened soldiers when he is forced into the army.
While 'Seven', by Director Yasser Mulla Ali, was on Iraqi invasion in the country, Dawood Shuail's 'A Picture' ('Salfet Sora' in Arabic), revolves around a twelve-year-old boy Abdullah, who loves photography and inadvertently takes a picture of a crime in progress.
Alia Farid's short movie 'Stills from Muneera', produced in conjunction with the 2014 Pavilion of Kuwait at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia,
Also screened was Abdulaziz Al-Ballam's 'Charlie Chaplin in G.U.S.T.', which is the story of a man with no education trying to make money. It is a well-executed Charlie Chaplin inspired video by the Gulf University Media Club.
Promoting the idea of 'giving back to Kuwait and society', KHL is developing the culture of non-profit, decreasing the commercialization in society, and doing things just "for the sake of Kuwait."
"We celebrate Kuwaiti arts and culture because we feel it is important to reconnect youth with their culture and heritage," said Sheikha Bibi Salem Al-Sabah at the screening.