Dubai, U.A.E – MDX Studios, the award-winning Film School at Middlesex University Dubai, celebrated another highly successful edition of Premiere de MDX Studios, the University’s annual student film festival. Hosted at Xtreme at Roxy Cinemas in Dubai Hills Mall on Thursday 25 May, the landmark event marked ten years of filmmaking at the University and saw its talented graduating filmmakers debut their original productions at the prestigious venue to a packed audience of the region’s film and cinema industry leaders, as well as faculty, classmates, friends and family.
As well as being the first edition where every film was produced in the newly enhanced MDX Studios film lab, launched in February 2023, the event marked the first time that any university has presented student work at Xtreme, the largest cinema screen in the MENA region.
Each student director was given the chance to premiere their film and discuss their process and inspiration with the audience. Head of MDX Studios Afroz Nawaf also shared exciting news and updates about MDX Studio’s growth, future plans, and upcoming industry projects.
Presenting the perfect chance for the aspiring filmmakers to showcase their creative skills, the films brought to life untold stories inspired by young people, communities, cultures, and prominent topics of discussion across the world, touching on subjects as diverse as homelessness, mental health, mother-daughter bonds, and childhood fears.
For instance, the spine-tingling film Lamcy, created by final year students Jatin Kalwani and Omar Al Amri, focused on a young boy who sets off a chain of terrifying events when he wins a toy clown from an arcade.
Director Jatin Kalwani said: “The idea for this movie came from our feeling that people don’t actually get scared whilst watching movies anymore. We wanted to change that and create a film that really addressed social and mental health issues. The name of the clown is inspired by Lamcy Mall, an old mall in Dubai that had a clown hanging outside. We had one-on-one coaching from Afroz throughout every step of the process, and we learned so much about Sound Design working with the Dolby Atmos sound system on campus, and all the stages involved with film production.”
Meanwhile, students Ashwin Ashta Kumar and Micheal Yazji incorporated their own personal experiences from relationships in their lives into the plot for their psycho-thriller Polaroid.
Speaking about what they learnt throughout the process, Director Ashwin Ashta Kumar said: “We gained so many new skills in story development, synopsis and tagline writing and directing. The tips and techniques from our professors about how to grab the attention of investors was really useful, and we loved learning how to use the RED cameras, set up our sets, and shoot our films at MDX Studios.”
A series of awards for the Class of 2023 were also granted to several students in recognition of their achievements, to rapturous applause. Director Zyrus De Leon and producer Vine Aerien Bianzon were awarded the MDX Studios Award for Best Film for their short film Pink Rose, while The One-on-One by director Ashwanth Ashwinikumar and producer Vine Aerien Bianzon won the MDX Studios Audience Choice Award. The MDX Studios Award for Best Directing went to Zyrus De Leon; the MDX Studios Award for Best Cinematography was granted to Sahil Shettigar; and Vine Aerien Bianzon walked away with the MDX Studios Award for Best Producer. Jatin Kalwani received the MDX Studios Award for Outstanding Student.
Professor Cedwyn Fernandes, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Middlesex University and Director of Middlesex University Dubai, was also awarded the inaugural Patron of the Arts 2023 Award for his outstanding contribution to supporting the creative art programmes in the areas of Film, Graphic Design, Fashion Design and Digital Media.
Professor Fernandes said: “I am honoured to receive the award and am astounded by the creative output of our students. I would like to congratulate all our students on their outstanding films, which were showcased on the silver screen in one of the largest commercial cinemas. Our Film School MDX Studios offers a truly professional filmmaking experience to students who are mentored by an outstanding faculty team, made up of leading academics and industry practitioners Dr David Tully, Head of Media; Afroz Nawaf, Head of MDX Studios; Daniela Tully, Lecturer in Film and Creative Writing; Deema Maghalseh, Lecturer in Film; and Shazia Ali Khan; Lecturer in Film. Thank you to our faculty, parents and guardians who support our students to live their dreams.”
Dr David Tully, Head of Media, Middlesex University Dubai said: “Today's milestone event, our biggest ever, celebrates not only the extraordinary filmmaking abilities of our students, but also ten years of the Film department at Middlesex University Dubai. That is a decade of continuous, spectacular growth, in student numbers, in quality of studio resources, in industry-trained faculty, and we're just getting started. We have revolutionised and redefined film education in the Middle East, as the outstanding quality of today's films, in every aspect of visual storytelling, cinematography, direction and production value makes clear. Here's to the next decade of cutting-edge filmmaking in the region!”
Afroz Nawaf, Head of MDX Studios, Middlesex University Dubai said: “It was my pleasure to celebrate another fantastic edition of our annual film showcase, Premiere de MDX Studios 2023. This year’s edition held extra significance as it featured the first student films to be created in the brand new state-of-the-art MDX Studios. Seeing their work in such a large format on screen in Roxy Cinemas, Dubai Hills Mall was so exciting for all our students, and I can’t praise them enough for their hard work and efforts throughout the past three years. I would like to thank Erik Stevens and the team at Roxy Cinemas for their continuous support of our students and giving young filmmakers a platform to showcase their work. The Film Festival gives students a unique chance to experience what it’s really like to prepare a project for being showcased in the cinema, and I thought that each of the featured films were all equally creative, thought-provoking, and impressive. Each production involved a team of first, second, and third year students who worked together to bring our directors’ and producers’ creative visions to life on the big screen presenting a unique immersive learning opportunity for our students, right from their first class. I am immensely proud of all our filmmakers! ”
Offering one of the only integrated, end-to-end film production university courses in the UAE, MDX Studios based at Middlesex University Dubai offers extraordinary technical features, including an extensive facility of co-production space for filmmakers, a dedicated Podcast Studio, Pitch Desk, Writers Room, viewing theatre and a Dolby Atmos Mixing Theatre.
Involving a ‘script-to-screen’ learning approach, the BA (Honours) Film at Middlesex University Dubai, delivered at MDX Studios, is centered around industry immersion. Students graduate ready to jump right into the film industry and start their prosperous careers. MDX Studios provides students with first-hand experience of each different role in the film business from their first year as they support other students’ creative projects, exploring every stage of production and having the opportunity to run and manage their own cutting-edge and futuristic studio and gain real-life film shoot experience. Functioning more like a professional studio than a university department, the practical and theoretical BA (Honours) Film spans insightful modules such as Film Entrepreneurship, Public Speaking, and Pitching Movies and Scripts.
Ideal for studio and commercial work, camera equipment at MDX Studios includes professional standard Blackmagic Design cameras, as well as the RED camera ecosystems that are approved for use by content producers for global media platforms such as Netflix. With the newly upgraded cameras and editing suites, students are able to master advanced industry software, equipment and filmmaking techniques as part of their degrees, even being able to produce finalised movies that are in line with the latest industry standards.
Middlesex University Dubai is proud to support the next generation of aspiring filmmakers in the UAE and provide a platform for them to achieve their goals and advance the future of the industry, though a world-class UK education.
To find out more about MDX Studios and the BA (Honours) Film programme at Middlesex University Dubai, please visit www.mdx.ac.ae.
About Middlesex University Dubai:
Middlesex University (MDX) Dubai is the first overseas campus of the renowned Middlesex University based in London, UK. The University’s first learning space in Dubai opened at Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP) in 2005 and the second in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) in 2021. The University is Dubai’s largest UK university licensed by KHDA for total student enrolment for the third consecutive year, with over 4,800 students studying with them from more than 120 nationalities.
The University offers a wide range of foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across both campuses. As well as having all the advantages associated with being a world-class British university, students at both Middlesex University Dubai campuses can benefit from all the opportunities afforded by a rapidly-developing modern city in the heart of the Middle East, while experiencing the diverse nationalities and cultures that make up the population of Dubai.
Middlesex University is a global university committed to meeting the needs and ambitions of a culturally and internationally diverse range of students, by providing challenging academic programmes underpinned by innovative research, grants and professional practice. Middlesex University Dubai prepares its students to be professional, skilled individuals who are ready for the modern world, committed to life-long learning and able to contribute to the communities in which they live and work.
For more information about the programmes and the range of scholarships and grants available, visit www.mdx.ac.ae.