Academy Award nominee returns to the UAE

Dubai-born Elia Petridis back in the UAE to partner with local production houses, share knowledge with Emirati youths
Academy Award nominee returns to the UAE
By Lubna Hamdan
Thu 08 Jan 2015 01:31 PM

Dubai-born Academy Award nominee Elia Petridis has returned to the UAE this January to partner with local production houses and share his gained knowledge with the Emirati youth.

The Greek Lebanese writer and director has returned to where he called “home” after an 18 year absence.

“I have decided to come back to my roots, after several projects in Hollywood, to give back to the country that instilled the love of film in me,” said Petridis of the UAE. “I want to share my knowledge and skills gained with the younger generation intent on making their mark in the cinema industry.”

Petridis has written, directed, and produced films like The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez (2012), How Henri Came to Stay (2006), and Forgotten (2014) which screened in Dubai on January 6 and was nominated for Best Foreign Film Academy Award.

A graduate of the highest ranked film school in the world, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Petridis said the UAE is where his film making journey began and where he hopes it will continue now that he has come back.

“I hold very fond memories of the UAE, it was where my love of film started,” said Petridis. “Dubai is an interesting mix of some 200 nationalities and each bring with them exposure to different cinema houses in the world and I hope to work with some of them to share insight on how different cultures go about producing and directing a film.”

Petridis’ best work, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, starred icon and Oscar winner the late Ernest Borgnine as well as Oscar nominee June Squibb.

The film tells the story of an old man who is bitter about never having become famous. When he suffers a stroke and is entered into a nursing home where the staff is Latin American, Rex, played by Borgnine, is not happy with the situation and tries his best to leave the home. This puts him at odds with the Latino staff. However, when the staff learns that Rex once shook hands with the famous Mexican singer Vincente Fernandez, they soon start treating Rex like the star he always dreamed of being.

When asked about the inspiration behind the film, Petridis said that he learned about Mariachi music legend Fernandez from a friend while on a drive home. But the most cherished experience of the film, he said, was working with Borgnine.

“Ernest was 96 when we made the film and no one knew it would be his last. It was such an honour for me as it was a completely transformative experience. To have him pass the baton down to a young filmmaker like he did is overwhelming,” Petridis said.

As for his future plans in the UAE, the director said that he is looking to partner with local entities on different projects.

Petridis founded a film and music video production company, “Filmatics,” in 2005 with offices in LA, London, and Dubai.

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