Original review featured on the Doha Film Institute website.

Film: Amal
Director: Nujoom Alghanem
Star: Amal Hawijeh
Genre: documentary
Duration: 88 mins

Amal Hawijeh is a Syrian theatre and TV actress. As many people from the Levant do, she goes to the UAE with the hope of establishing a better life. She slowly finds herself immersed in a routine she’s not acquainted with. Yes she has stability and safety, but she misses the rich artistic scene of her home country and wonders about staying or going back home.

It is difficult to be known in your country and finding yourself starting from zero in a strange land. That was the motive of Emirati director Nujoom Alghanem in making this documentary. In the Q&A following the premiere at the 5th edition of the Gulf Film Festival, she confessed having experienced a similar fate when studying abroad and decided – originally- to make a fiction picture about the integration of expatriates in the UAE through the eyes of an artist.

As she started co-writing with actress Amal Hawijeh, she found out that the Syrian artist had enough of a dramatic life that shifted the narrative into a documentary about her life.

Amal used to work in one of the local TV stations impersonating an animated cartoon character popular amongst children, and later on working on the famous children magazine “Captain Majid”.

Amal has a rich career of acting on stage and in front of the camera. Her passion for theatre and tremendous talent marked her as one of the key dubbing stars of children cartoon series. But as this voice doesn’t have a famous face, Amal finds herself facing the same fate in the UAE. Living in Abu Dhabi, she admires the steadiness of the city and her work, but for a sensitive artist like herself… it’s not enough.

She tries to compensate by being active on the local cultural scene, but finds it missing a crucial part.

This middle-aged woman filled with life makes it hard for the viewer not to appreciate her pleasant personality and admirable talent.

She represents, not only artists living in Dubai but all artists trying to make a living outside the borders of their homeland and risk to be kept in the shadow.

This is the second documentary in the festival along with “Akram Tree” about the renowned artist Akram Khan, which tackles the rich artistic scene lacking an abundant interaction from local audiences. But ironically, both screenings were packed marking probably a drastic shift for a less marginalized art scene.

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