The UAE’s first interactive documentary, ZaabiliDoc, a joint project between Emirati filmmaker Hassan Kiyany and photographer Ammar Al Attar, is set to go live this week.

The work revolves around the site of the Zaabil girls school in Dubai, which was closed in 2011 and has since fallen into ruin.

Kiyany, whose previous works include the iPhone short Telephoni and Marwan The Boxer, labels himself a “visual storyteller”.

He says ZaabiliDoc is a comment on the UAE’s relentless urban growth and renewal over the last few decades and the fact that few of its original buildings remain intact.

“In the UAE, everything is new but I think it’s important to preserve some of the older buildings, rather than demolishing everything all the time,” said Kiyany. “The school is 35-years-old, which to you might not seem very old but here in the UAE it is. The country is only 43-years-old so by our standards this is an historic building.”

Photographer Al Attar has built his portfolio around recording the changes taking place in the UAE, capturing people and places across the country, before their customs and environments are swept way by progress.

ZaabiliDoc combines Al Attar’s photos and footage shot by Kiyany.

It takes the viewers on a visit of the school, through its empty classrooms, decorated with chipped and fading frescoes drawn by pupils, along dusty walkways and out into the vast recreation ground, looking out to the skyscrapers of downtown Dubai in the distance.

“We want to give the viewers an experience of the place and also want them to interact with the material but not only through touch,” said Kiyany. “It also invites viewers, who studied at the school, to share their stories and photos using the hashtag zaabiliDoc. The contents created on social media will be updated to the site every month. The story really starts once we go live.”

The project, which is supported by FujiFilm Middle East, local digital media company Elevision Media and the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), is due to go live on December 17.

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