Discover culture through short films

While travelling on Qatar Airways, I was delighted to find out that among 100s of international movies they had, there were few local short films. The movies were between 6 and 28 minutes long. They were funded by Qatar Film Institute and directed by Qataris.
The first film was Smicha (fish in gulf dialect). The film focused on 2 characters: Lulwa, a young girl of 7 or 8 and her Alzheimer suffering grandfather. Throughout the film, Lulwa is trying hard to make her grandfather remember his promise of buying her a gold fish. Although the film was less than 20 minutes, the atmosphere was nostalgic and reminded me instantly of my childhood. The film was so generic and easy to relate to. Lulwa represented any GCC child who lived with a loving grandparent, like many of us.
In the second film, Kashta (outdoors camping in gulf dialect) two boys accompany their father in a camping trip. The boys have different characters. One is quiet and wearing a boy scout gear and the other is boisterous in his national attire. The boys quarrel over a hedgehog that the scout had found. Unfortunately, the dad gets shot by accident during the fight. The boys manage to save their father when they collaborate (the scout with his ideas and the other with his skills).
Al-Makhbaz (the bakery) is the shortest film of the lot (only 6 minutes long). The director focuses on the oldest bakery they have in Qatar, that produces khubz tanoor (also known as Iranian bread). The focus of the film is solely on the production of bread: from the dough making stage throughout the cutting, baking and finally packing in bags. What made this monotonous experience interesting is the continuous humming voice of the baker. The song hummed is obviously Persian and if you understand a bit of Hindi — just like me — you could make out the sounds of other workers commenting on the song and singing something else in their language.
Al-Jawhara (the jewel) was more of an entertaining Gulf take on the Cinderella story. The fairy Godmother is exchanged with an old kind-hearted neighbour, in a traditional dress and veil. Cinderella’s dress and shoes were ordered online by the step sisters but thrown away later for being the wrong fit. The dancing ball is a wedding and the prince happens to be the groom’s friend (and the neighbour’s grandson too!).
The last film was called Amer: a true legend. Amer is a thoroughbred Arabian horse that comes from the Qatari farm of Um Qarn. He won a few international races at the old age of 12. What made it interesting was that Amer’s origins were doubted by many, until a document with the family tree had appeared and cleared all suspicions. Amer still thrives at the age of 31 and had produced a generation of racing horses that rarely lost. Trainers and jockeys of Amer speak about their memories of him.
Other than being truly enjoyable, what made these films special is that they represented the shared culture and ideology of the Gulf countries. It makes a good introduction to expat visitors who are coming to the area for the first time (and might have stereotypical ideas about the Arabic culture in general).
I wish to see the same initiative happening in Oman. Young directors and media students should be encouraged to produce short films that focus on different aspects of our rich culture. As a reward, the winners get to play their films on our national airlines. Enjoyable films are always easy to remember.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. rashabooks@yahoo.com