Media industry zooming in on Arab political awakening, says Emirati producer


Arab Spring may spark boom in movie business

Emirati producer Nayla Al Khaja said the movie industry needs more funding

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 booming.”

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.



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