Zayed University to Build UAE’s First National Film Library and Archive
07.06.2012 - Zayed University (ZU) has begun to build the UAE National Film Library and Archive (UNFLA), an institution that will preserve the work of UAE filmmakers for generations to come.
Housed in state-of-the-art archive rooms at the University’s new Abu Dhabi campus, UNFLA will acquire and preserve a selection of films by the nation’s leading filmmakers, among them Ali Mostafa, Nawaf Al-Janahi, Nayla Al Khaja and Nujoom Alghanem. As well, the library will include an impressive selection of UAE productions and co-productions, and will house both short and feature-length films. Line-ups from the Emirates Film Competition (EFC), the Gulf Film Festival (GFF), and the Zayed University Middle East Film Festival (ZUMEFF) will also be represented.
Films that have received funding from the UAE, such as those financed by the Abu Dhabi Film Festival’s SANAD fund and the Dubai International Film Festival’s Enjaaz, will also be kept in the library, alongside Hollywood blockbusters that have been produced in association with the UAE's leading production companies, like Image Nation and Filmworks, including The Help, Contagion, Fair Game, Syriana and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.
The project is being developed by a team of four comprising ZU Professor Alia Yunis, ADFF’s Özge Calafato, ZU librarian David Oldenkamp and ZU archivist Heidi Butler. It has been made possible thanks to a grant from Zayed University.
“We came up with this project after talking with several Emirati filmmakers and realizing that they didn't have access to previous Emirati films, and didn't even know of the existence of these other films,” Yunis says. “You can't build an industry without knowing what has come before. The UAE needs a film library and archive before the existing films are permanently lost.”
Calafato agrees. “There’s little and often misleading information regarding the history of filmmaking in the UAE. Many think City of Life is the first feature film from the UAE, for example. Through the UAE National Film Library and Archive, we will work towards changing this situation by providing reliable information for researchers, filmmakers and film enthusiasts. We hope to create a unique reference point for cinema in the country,” she explains.
The Library will feature a rare collection of publications relating to filmmaking, film festivals and businesses in the UAE. These, in turn, will help the UNFLA enhance and strengthen the pool of available research and reference resources in the UAE and around the world.
The Archive will focus on the preservation of films, an essential field that remains neglected not only in the UAE but also throughout the Arab world. Yunis provides the example of Egypt, where some of the greatest film classics starring legends like Umm Kulthum and Leila Mourad have been lost because film preservation ‘was thought of too late’. “That is a profoundly sad loss for film, history and culture,” she says. “The UAE is in a position to avoid such situations."
According to David Oldenkamp – who, together with Emirati director Nawaf Al-Janahi (Sea Shadow), introduced the UNFLA project to the public in April during ZUMEFF – “The UAE does not have the long history that, say, Egypt, Turkey and Iran have when it comes to making films. But as the UAE filmmaking community grows and becomes better known throughout the region and the world, it is critical that there be a UAE National Film Library and Archive that will collect, document, preserve, and provide access to the growing output of the UAE film community.”
The Archive will obtain films in their original formats without digital compression or editing beyond the ‘director’s cut’ whenever possible. Collateral material such as scripts, subtitles or translations, promotional materials, media clippings, and film festival records will be kept to provide context for each film and support the research process.
“The true archival version will be stored in a way that best ensures its long term integrity,” ZU archivist Heidi Butler explains, “For a digital file, that means saving it to a protected hard drive or server, with a plan for testing and migrating the digital file periodically so it remains accessible. Analog versions also need to be stored properly and checked routinely as film media is sensitive to light, pests, and fluctuations in temperature and humidity.”
In a country where filmmaking is still so young, a great majority of films are made with digital technology.
For Oldenkamp, the key to preserving digital films for the long term is to “start with the highest quality video possible. Then it is a question of making sure that we stay on top of evolving formats and standards for archiving digital video and audio files as technologies evolve,” he says.
UNFLA’s goals have earned high praise from local filmmakers, including Nawaf Al-Janahi, who expressed his support at ZUMEFF: “This project is going to have a lasting impact on the nation. We need to document our films. And this project will preserve our film history from being lost.”
Questions about the project may be directed to email@example.com.