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Zainab Shaheen’s Mountain Boy Premieres At 4th Annual Gulf Cinema Festival


April 16, 2024

The Fujairah-born director is passionate about the Emirates and its people — and she tackles a number of important social themes in her new film about a boy with autism

The fourth annual Gulf Cinema Festival is currently taking place in Riyadh this week, shining a spotlight on regional filmmaking talent. The four-day event, running from April 14 – 18, aims to foster cultural and knowledge exchange amongst attendees and promote the growth and development of regional cinema on to a global sphere.

The festival features an immersive lineup of specialised training workshops and dialogue sessions covering a broad range of filmmaking topics.

The event will also be showcasing 29 films – including feature films, short films, and documentaries – by renowned filmmakers from across the Gulf.

One of the films, titled Mountain Boy, will be premiering at the festival today. The film was directed by Emirati filmmaker, Zainab Shaheen, and was produced by Desert Rose Films, a female-focused production company in Abu Dhabi.

Based off the 2017 children’s book, The Boy Who Knew the Mountains, Mountain Boy tells the story of a young boy with autism, Suhail, who flees to the desert after being shunned by his tribe. Suhail then embarks on a newfound journey, traveling from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi, in search of acceptance, family, understanding, and redemption.

The film marks the feature film directorial debut of director Zainab Shaheen. Having previously worked on short films such as Journey of Hope and Fujairah Vlog, Zainab is committed to empowering Emirati talent through telling uniquely Emirati-based stories.

In a statement, Zainab says she was drawn to the story of Mountain Boy as it presented an opportunity for her to weave a narrative that not only entertains but fosters understanding and empathy.

Filmed in various locations across Fujairah and Abu Dhabi, the film also offers a unique perspective on the country’s mountainous landscape and natural beauty.

“My initial vision for Mountain Boy was to create a film that seamlessly blends a heartwarming family story with the breathtaking landscapes of the UAE, especially the enchanting beauty of Fujairah and Abu Dhabi. I wanted the visual elements to complement and enhance the emotional depth of the narrative, providing audiences with a unique cinematic experience,” she said.

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