Meet this inspiring Emirati mum-turned-budding scriptwriter


Sajida Al Muallemi_2

This Emirati mother of three is one of eight aspiring writers chosen from hundreds for the Arab Film Studio’s Scriptwriting programme with Image Nation. Hoping to turn her dream into a reality, Sajida is creating a short film to be judged at Dubai Film Festival later this year. We talk to the writer about setting new goals and portraying Emirati culture

Tell me about your writing career…

First it was a dream for me just to write and publish my writing – and I achieved it. Then it was a dream for me to publish a novel and, Alhamdulillah, I achieved it.

Then I had this dream to see my ideas on the big screen but I didn’t know how to start. When I heard about the Arab Film Studio, it was a dream come true; it would be the first step for me in this industry.

The programme is five months long. How is it going so far?

When we began, I didn’t know anything about script; I had my own tries to write scripts but now I’ve learned the right way.

In the workshops, we talked about the characters, the story, and changed things in the developing of the story. Making a short story is different to a feature movie. When I started, I thought it was for a feature but now the challenge is to put the whole story into a 20-minute film, maximum.

Tell me about your story…

My story is about a family that’s going on holiday without their maids. It has a lot of messages for families and I want to show people the beauty of Emirati culture.

People don’t know a lot of things about us: what we do, how we live. I’m trying to show this nice side of us that people don’t know.

And I have a lot of messages to Emirati people, especially families and parents. I think we have a lot of problems in our culture and society, like family issues. But I’m trying to send messages in a comedic way; it’s not too dramatic.

What types of family issues does it address?

I’m talking about how children depend on the maids and don’t know anything about the mums. This holiday is going to force the mum to get to know her children better; and not only the mum, the dad also. Because in our culture, sometimes men think that it’s not their job to look after the kids.

There have been a lot of international films shot here recently but do you think opportunities are increasing for Emiratis?

Yes. For me, for example, I wanted to come into this industry but I didn’t know how. Image Nation is giving us the first step. They’re really helping us and giving us a chance.

Why are programmes like Arab Film Studio important for local producers and scriptwriters?

Because we don’t know where to start. There are a lot of people who have the same dream that I have, but they’re in the same situation: they don’t know how to start. These programmes are helping us to start but in the right way, with the right people.

What’s your plan for after the programme?

I really want to see my movie on the big screen. Even if I don’t win, I’m going to try to find a producer to make my film.

I’m feeling excited with my new career so I think I’ll write another movie. This is my dream now.

I have a message to send, especially for families. I’m a stay at home mum and as mothers we have a lot of issues that no one is talking about.

Do you want to see more Emiratis entering the film industry to address these issues?

I’m seeing a lot of development now but I wish more Emiratis would come into the picture.

It’s nice to see all these stories but sometimes they exaggerate, showing our culture in a bad way. I want to see more realistic stories; I want to see these positive things about us, not only the negatives. For example, girls in the UAE can now achieve their dreams easily. I’m a girl and my country is helping me to achieve my goals.

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