Life Lessons: Ali F Mostafa
Ali F Mostafa, 29, was born in London and grew up in Dubai. A writer, producer and director, he made short films before his 2009 feature debut, City Of Life, broke box office records for an Emirati movie. He is now working on a new UAE-based film.
No one knows everything. No matter how old you are you can’t claim to know everything. There is always room to learn. Even the great film director Martin Scorsese said, “I am still learning how to make films to this day.” So be humble.
Never accept “impossible”. I was advised to lock my script for City Of Life in a safe and think about making it in 10 years’ time. This advice was given to me because the authorities felt my film might be too controversial to produce. In my view, the issue was not controversy but the fear of new ground. “Are we ready?” was the question. I felt we were. I thought, “We have come so far with our country we have to break more ground.” Always persevere and fight for your objective. “Impossible” should not be an option.
Film-making is not theoretical. It is practical. Do not worry if you cannot go to film school. The best way to learn film-making is to make as many films as you can. Get on as many sets as you can. There are a lot more commercial shoots going on in this part of the world than films. My advice is to get involved. You’ll be surprised how fast you will learn.
Big dreams need bigger action. Always dream big and aim high. But remember the bigger the dream the more work you have to put in to achieve it. You might get the door slammed in your face 100 times but it just means it was not your door, your entrance or your blessing. Keep trying those doors until one opens. I was once told by a loved one to aim as high as you can, because even if you miss the moon you will end up among the stars. Never give up hope.
Treat others how you would like to be treated. People deserve respect no matter what. Karma affects us all. You don’t want your regrettable actions of the past to hit you in the face in the future. However important you think you are, you are actually equal to the person beside you.
As told to Helena Frith Powell
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019