Friday, February 03, 2023 | Rajab 11, 1444 H
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Diversity thru lens



Truth @ 24 times per second can’t be a bad idea at all. Though it was Jean-Luc Godard who bluntly enlightened us about the beauty and influence of frequent truths, which we know as cinema, he also didn’t hesitate to call it the most beautiful fraud. Truth, when framed, turns out to be deception, which nonetheless we all appreciate.

This conundrum may bemuse us for a while, but at the same time the significance of cinema as a powerful ambassador of cultural diversity shouldn’t be lost on us. Discussions are on, at the global level, to utilise the power of the medium to promote diverse cultures and perceptions, and thus establish a decent level of sanity and openness in a world that is prone to subtle manipulation by polarising beliefs and ideologies.

Unesco’s projects including the IFCD (International Fund for Cultural Diversity) funding that aims to nourish the film industry in the developing world as a means to promote cultural diversity; and the Diversity Film Support Project for developing the film industry in the Republic of Korea in terms of fostering film creativity, strengthening the right to enjoy culture through films, and promoting film culture; along with other projects such as the British Film Institute’s cultural diversity initiatives awaken us to the potential of cinema in creating a world in harmony.

Here, in the Sultanate too, we get to see the emergence of creative projects that strive to rectify the cultural disconnect among peoples and countries. The recently concluded first ever Indo-Oman short film festival, as well as the soon-to-be-released first full length feature film Zayana that is jointly created by Omani and Indian film-makers and artists, point to a new collaborative movement in the movie industry.

Zayana, directed by Dr Khalid al Zadjali and produced by Al Masa Co and Heera Films, is being hailed as a bold and beautiful attempt at bridging the perceived cultural differences between Oman and India. The screenplay of the film is by Dr Zadjali, Faisal al Zadjali and Fatma al Salmi.

Fatma, a former Board member of Oman Film Society represents the young and female face of cinema in Oman. She holds strong views about cinema and its potential social and cultural role in people’s lives.

“Cinema allows you to show on the big screen what people are afraid of or ashamed of saying in real life. Also, it’s a powerful medium that can open people’s eyes to various issues of pressing concern and create public awareness. In that sense, it’s an extremely influential change agent,” says Fatma, who is also involved in the production of Zayana.

She feels that though cinema screens are aplenty in the Sultanate, the real cinema industry is yet to establish itself. The society’s views on cinema too need to be changed, she notes. “While there are many young and talented Omani women who want to work in the movie field in different roles across acting, directing, screenplay writing and production, it’s still a problem when it comes to getting support and encouragement from family and society,” Fatma observes.

Passionate about the medium, she has been actively involved in the movie sector in Oman. She has directed a short film that tried to enhance public awareness about the need to save water, and yet another one about Muscat, which won laurels at the Muscat Short Film Competition. She also attended workshops on art direction and script writing.

She hopes that Oman will soon have training institutes for acting, just as it has superb facilities for movie editing and photography. “There is a growing number of youngsters, both male and female, who want to work in the movie sector as actors, directors, scriptwriters, editors and production controllers. They also want to participate in international and regional film festivals and competitions and carve a niche for Oman in the movie world,” Fatma says.

About the benefits of joint film projects, she says: “Collaborative movie projects like Zayana can introduce the great culture, heritage and food of Oman to other countries and vice versa, and they also encourage tourism movement between two countries. Also their success would encourage more production companies enter the fray and take up projects that benefit the economies of the countries involved.”

She is looking forward to working in joint film ventures between Oman and other countries, so that the world gets to know and appreciate the Sultanate’s majestic beauty, amazing culture and great tourism potential.

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