The idea was to arrange for an entertaining and unique evening. While browsing through various options, I had little idea that it would lead me to attending one of Kuwait’s most awaited events of the year.
Shift Kuwait Film Night for Charity, an event known for presenting short films, was being conducted in an open air setting. The idea is to screen films made by Kuwaiti directors which were internationally acclaimed, but never screened within the country. It also provided an opportunity to encourage charity by donating all proceeds to Kuwait’s orphanage.
It was impossible to pass by such an event and not be a part of it. I quickly booked tickets for the first night of the event. The show was scheduled for two consecutive days, each projecting a different set and genre of movies at the historical Musical Fountain of Kuwait City.
I arrived at the venue a little early and caught a glimpse of the busy organizers – members of Kuwait Healthy Living (KHL) – who were beaming with delight as the night promised to make ‘Shift’ an unforgettable experience, yet again.
In a discussion with one of the organizers, I was informed about the success of the first-ever ‘Shift’ event. “We got a fantastic response from our first Shift event in 2012. When we talk to people about it, they still remember it and want more,” said organizer Shaikha Al Othman. “We are not a normal film festival. The idea is to bring Kuwaiti films to a casual, average Kuwaiti person and not to people in the film industry. It’s aimed at those who would be interested in films but would not proactively go to a film festival. So we are not a film festival, rather a movie night. That’s what we are and that’s why it’s different.”
As the screenings began, I was flabbergasted by the efforts and talent that was demonstrated by the Kuwaiti film-makers. Themes, storyline, cinematography, actors and all elements that make an award winning short film, were executed beautifully. If allowed to be biased, then I would pick Saloon Rijal by Meshal Al-Hulail, as my favorite. This comical drama revolves around a man trying to escape from his barber but is filled with guilt while he tries to do so.
This particular movie won the best short film award at Ajial Youth Film Festival 2013. However, another movie worth acknowledging, was Khalid Al-Siddiq’s Alia & Essam. It was the first film made in Kuwait and the region – filmed in 1964. More surprising, it was being screened for the first time that night. “We are honored to have earned the rights for the first screening of the film since it was made,” said Shaikha.
Some of the other movies screened included Just like You Imagined (Zeyad AlHusaini), Sneeze (Meqdad Al-Kout), Once Upon A Time (Abdulrahman Al-Khaliifi), Impurity (Ahmed Al Terkait), Heaven’s Water (Abdullah Boushahri), I Wish We Were Dancers (Mohammed Walid Ayyad), and The Detective (Dawood Shuail).
“All of the films (apart from Alia & Essam) were made in the past 6 years and have been screened in the Gulf Film Festival, the Dubai Film Festival and in various other events, but never in Kuwait,” added Shaikha.
Every movie was followed by light murmurs from the audience. With comments made, I could sense a change of perception towards Kuwaiti cinema. Though movies demanded prime focus of the audience, the comforting atmosphere and accompanying refreshing cuisine made the event more desirable. I enjoyed sprawling and snuggling into beanie bags while sipping my freshly brewed coffee.
‘Shift’ was a success in all ways – an event I look forward to attending every year. It was one of those rare occasions which ended up exceeding my expectations. It had every aspect covered – from entertainment, to charity, the art of reviving an old place like the Musical Fountain, as well as promoting social well-being. Like organizer Bibi Salem Al-Sabah said, “Health is much more than fitness and losing weight, it’s mental, social and emotional. So this month we decided to make a team and conduct ‘Shift’.”