Industry: Arts and entertainment
Country of origin: @NaylaAlkhaja
Nayla Al Khaja is the first woman film producer and director in the UAE. Upon graduating from Dubai Women’s College with a degree in mass communication in 1999, a stint with Arabian Radio Network hosting her own travel show, which was a ratings hit, developed her passion for filmmaking.
She applied to Ryerson University in Canada, which runs a well-known filmmaking programme, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in image studies — filmmaking in 2005. Al Khaja is the CEO of D-SEVEN Motion Pictures, a marketing and design agency that offers full media campaign and corporate branding services. Established in 2005, the company has achieved a lot in the last decade. She partnered with iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz to produce the complete Men’s Vogue photo shoot for tennis champion Roger Federer in Dubai, and she also handled the campaign for the Special Olympics (Middle East and North Africa) in 2006 and 2008.
Her films have always been controversial in nature, covering topics such as dating and child abuse. In 2007, she was awarded best Emirati filmmaker at Dubai International Film Festival and won the British Council’s International Young Screen Entrepreneur Award in 2010. She has also set up the Scene Club, which screens independent films in the UAE on a regular basis and has over 9,000 registered members.