By Shane McGinley
Media industry zooming in on Arab political awakening, says Emirati producer
The Arab Spring movement has spurred unprecedented interest
in the region’s fledgling film industry but growth is still hampered by a lack
of funding, said Emirati producer Nayla Al Khaja.
“The Middle East is a very hot place for film at the moment,”
said Al Khaja, CEO of production company D-Seven. “The Arab Spring, this has
also sparked a huge movement in film producing.
Film has a huge capacity to start being very lucrative and to
be turned into a viable commodity… It is like the property business when it was
The GCC has seen a rise in film funds aimed at tapping into
Arab audiences and helping to increase the number of locally-produced movies.
Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha each now play host to an annual film festival, which
showcase a range of Arab and international productions.
The Middle East is also attracting interest as a location
for big-budget films. Dubai provided the backdrop for the latest Mission
Impossible film, which debuted in the emirate last week, while Antonio Banderas’
film Black Gold was shot in Tunisia at the outbreak of political tensions.
Nearly a year on, Tunisia has held its first democratic
elections and Black Gold has made its debut on cinema screens worldwide.
But the growth of local cinema continues to struggle with a
lack of capital and a shortfall in the global distribution deals common in more
developed media markets, said Al Khaja.
“There are many
challenges. We don’t have a distribution vessel that pulls all the Arab films together
for example, that’s why there is a very limited selection at the cinema,” she
said. “But a lack means an opportunity. If someone here in the Middle East creates
a niche private film fund for two to three films a year, we could see at a new
era of filmmaking for the Arab world.”
Al Khaja, the author of four short films, said she is now
pursuing her first feature-length movie.
“I tied up with a
producer of Under Suspicion with Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman.”
Abu Dhabi film company Image Nation said in October it would
triple its annual investment in the UAE’s film industry and produce up to six
Emirati films a year by 2016.
The company, whose film credits include the Hollywood
thriller The Double, saw the debut of one of its first Emirati films last month
– the coming-of-age story Sea Shadow.
In a bid to improve distribution, Image Nation Abu Dhabi has
also signed a deal with Empire International to distribute locally-produced
movies to theatres and on DVD across the region.