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UAE Plastic Bag Ban Film, “The Turtle” Wins Cannes Award

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, October 27, 2012 (ENS) – A film about the destructive impact of plastic bags on marine wildlife in the United Arab Emirates’ has won the top award in its class at the Cannes Corporate Media & TV Festival.

“The Turtle,” starring 14-year-old Emirati actor Ahmad Al Dahouri, was made for the UAE Pavilion at EXPO 2012 Yeosu, Korea. It received the Golden Dolphin award in the Environmental Issues and Concerns category at the Cannes festival, held October 18 in the French coastal city.

Based on real events, the adventure style eco-film tells the story of Ali, a boy who stows away on his father’s boat in an effort to save a turtle.

The film was inspired by the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water’s decision to move away from non-biodegradable plastic bags. It showcases the importance of pollution-free seas, aligning with the Yeosu Expo theme, “Living Ocean and Coastal Activities.”

As Ali’s father says in the film, “Turtles eat plastic bags because they think they’re food. Then they find it impossible to dive because the plastic makes them positively buoyant, so they starve.”

At the film’s world premier on May 5 at the UAE Pavilion it was enthusiastically received by the audience, who were moved by the message of the film and by Al Dahouri’s strong performance.

“Shooting the movie was a great experience as I got to learn about the dangers of extinction these turtles are facing from plastic bag pollution and the importance of preserving these turtles and the environment in general,” Al Dahouri told the “Gulf News”

“I was proud of myself for acting for an important cause and representing my country in a positive light,” Al Dahouri said.

“Attending the ceremony in Cannes and not only being amongst movie stars who have been acting all their life but also winning without having any acting training made me even more proud,” he said.

In his acceptance speech at the Cannes award ceremony, Al Dahouri said, “This film has focused a bright light on just one of the actions the UAE is taking to reduce pollution and protect the environment. There are many others and highlighting such issues to the general public can have a really positive influence.”

“As a young person who worries about what we are doing to our planet, I believe that we have a responsibility to influence change,” he said.

Congratulations came from UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who called the film “moving and engaging,” and from UAE Minister of State, Reem Al Hashemi, who thanked Al Dahouri for his strong performance.

In addition to the Golden Dolphin award at Cannes, “The Turtle” received two awards in Korea. It was selected as the Best Film at Yeosu Korea Expo by the World Buddhist Supreme Tathagata Followers Peace Foundation (WBSTFPF) and also by the UN Economic and Social Council, ECOSOC 2012

The UAE Government hopes the success of “The Turtle” and its environmental message will help support the country’s bid to host the World Expo in 2020.

The UAE was first inspired to ban plastic bags when environmental and health studies showed that the bags may be behind deaths of 50 percent of the camels that die in the desert country.

Specialists at the Ministry of Environment and Water say the research conducted on the remains of animals found in the desert region of Falaj Mualla in the UAE in 1997, showed that the camels had swallowed plastic bags and choked to death.

Large parts of the camels decomposed, but the plastic bags in the camels’ stomachs did not decompose. These bags are displayed in a glass case in the municipality of Falaj Muala as a reminder of the dangers of plastic bags.

It took years after this research was done, but on October 20, 2009 the Ministry of Environment and Water launched the “UAE Free of Plastic Bags” initiative.

The ministry says this initiative aims to limit the negative impacts of non-biodegradable plastic bags on human health, wildlife and the environment by gradually reducing the number of plastic bags used in the UAE ahead of “final prohibition and replacement with the biodegradable plastic bags and the alternative bags.”

In “The Turtle,” Ali dreams that his country will bring in a plastic bag ban to save marine turtles. It is scheduled to come true in 2013.

“The Turtle” was produced by FQC Media & Big Features, located in Dubai Media City, and directed by Stewart Sugg of Great Britain. It is based on an original story by Robert Vine and Peter Butcher.

Watch the film at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu1jsC1tq8Q

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.