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GIFFONI EXPERIENCE 2014 - 18.27 July

Sections & Films


Category: Edition 2014


THE BRAIN THAT SINGS follows the journey of two young Autistic boys in the United Arab Emirates, nineteen-year-old Mohammed Al-Tamimi and six-year-old Khalifa Al-Ali, and their progression through three months of music therapy, which has previously proved some success in modifying behavioural issues in autism. Music therapy uses the melody and the rhythm of music to mimic and manipulate the moods and emotions of autistic people. We explore the cultural stigma associated with having a special needs child in the Arab world, and the issues the parents face when they plan for the future of their children.


Category Official Competition
Section GEx Doc
Tipology Documentary, Feature Film
Duration 61'
Production Year 2013
Nationality United Arab Emirates
Directed by Amal Al-Agroobi
Screenplay Amal Al-Agroobi
Director of photography Ziad Oakes
Editor Amal Al-Agroobi, Bassem Shalaby
Music Mohammed Ahmed Fikree
Main cast Mohammed Al-Tamimi
Khalifa Al-Ali
Fauzia Mohammed
Marion Tennant
Saleh Al-Tamimi
Sanaa Al-Tamimi
Produced by Amal Al-Agroobi

Amal Al-AgroobiAmal Al-Agroobi

Born in the UAE. She obtained a BSc in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Durham and an MSc in Neurosciences from the University College London. She began her film training in London with a certificate in short film production and a certificate in acting. In 2010 she acted in the feature film KICK-ASS, by Matthew Vaughn. In 2011 she joined the studio company Image Nation (Abu Dhabi) on a trainee program and began making her own films. In 2012 she directed her first short film, HALF EMIRATI, which was screened at the 2012 Dubai Film Festival. In 2013 she set up the production company ALAGROOBI Films. THE BRAIN THAT SINGS is her directorial debut feature and won the People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Dubai Film Festival.








Director’s statement

“I have a scientific background and the brain has always fascinated me. Novel therapies have always fascinated me and most importantly, music has always been a part of my life. When my colleague received an email from a desperate mother wishing someone would make a documentary about her son, the need to help this family just pushed me to want to spread her story. The lack of awareness for conditions such as autism is profound… but it’s not just about advertising what autism is, it’s about understanding why it’s such an issue to those living in the UAE and the Arab region. This social issues is affecting the country and is constantly on the rise. The parents of children with autism usually have a tough time raising them without the proper attention, support and medical expertise in the country. As the child gets older and their needs become more pronounced, this becomes more of an issue as parents strive to find a way to control their autistic children. But sharing stories with the general public can identify and appreciate the changes in development of an autistic child”.
“They also say music is a sort of key to the mind. Working on many different levels, the music can alter our mood – from depressed and sad, to excited, to exalted and those play music, say that it is the universal language of communication. Is it really? Autistic children mostly have problems in communication and understanding. I wanted to discover if three months of therapy would really show a difference regardless of age and do what I could to open up the possibilities for these families”.
“The style I chose was semi observational. We observed both Khalifa and Mohammed during their Music therapy classes. In fact, most of the time I was hiding as to not creating too much hustle and bustle and distract the boys. It was tough because autistic individuals don’t usually like being around people and so we weren’t quite sure if they were going to focus. In the case of Khalifa I think he got used to us being there but in Mohammed’s case I feel like perhaps he was stressed whenever we were filming and that could have indeed affected the therapy”.


festival contact

ALAGROOBI Films Production
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
phone +971 65195413
fax +971 65195414
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