"It has been more than two years since the Emirati author Maha Gargash considered having her first novel The Sand Fish adapted for the big screen.

“A team approached me, having read the book and loved it,” says Gargash. “They saw some good possibilities for it. I think they have a big love for this country and its culture too, which was part of their attraction to the novel.”

The book, which has been adapted by the filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, is up for a US$100,000 (Dh367,000) IWC Filmmaker Award on Thursday, December 11. The story is set in the UAE of the 1950s and tells the tale of Noora, an independent Emirati woman who struggles with the conventions and traditions of the day. Gargash is particularly happy with how Jacir has treated her story.

“The screenplay is pretty faithful to the book,” she says. “And I was, of course, able to have my say. I’ve had regular contact with the producers and they’ve always asked for my thoughts. Once the screenplay was ready, they sent it to me and I read the whole thing, adding my comments. But there were no major changes, just some small things I suggested.”

How long Gargash will have to wait for the premiere of Sandfish – as it has been renamed – is impossible to predict. One thing is for sure: if the film’s director, the Saudi Arabian filmmaker and actress Ahd Kamel, wins the IWC, the cash prize would be a welcome springboard in gathering the funding needed to move the project forward.

“That’s what the producers are working on and hopefully it will happen soon. How much money is needed? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask them that,” says Gargash, laughing. “After all, I’m just an artist, what do I know about these things?”"

Rebecca McLaughlin-Duane