First Take

First Take

CITY OF LIFE. Remember that title because it is the movie written and directed by the UAE’s premier filmmaker Ali F. Mostafa that is set to change the Emirates film industry for good.

Published: Sun 31 Aug 2008, 10:31 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:52 PM

Filmmaker Ali F.Mostafa on the sets of his movie City of Life. The film will focus on the region and will showcase all aspects of life here Handling an unprecedented budget for the region, City of Life will tell the story of three individuals living in Dubai and howthe briefest of encounters can change lives forever. A wealthy Emirati man, an Indian taxi driver and a Western woman’s fates will spiral in very different directions as a result of their interactions in and around the city.

The film, which has begun filming and is due next year, will have each of the characters speaking their native languages; Arabic, English and Hindi with subtitles in the other two so everyone can follow the story. The drama, which will be distributed internationally, will bring focus to the region we call home and will showcase all aspects of life here. From the high end villas in exclusive locations to the more humble areas, each sector of Dubai’s society will have their voice portrayed. To imagine the scale of this project one just has to look at the major stunt planned. Soon to be filmed, a twenty car pile-up on Shaikh Zayed road shot live will see the characters’ stories develop and provide the impact this film needs to showit is up there with the big boys of Hollywood and Bollywood.

Ali Mostafa, a UAE national, attended the London Film School where his graduation film achieved international acclaim. Returning to Dubai he found opportunities for young directors were sparse. He set about working on commercial sets, working as a gaffer and a grip before being promoted to assistant director. He claims that the experience he gained on those sets was invaluable despite being on a smaller scale and helped him in his quest to become director of his own film.

City Times caught up with Ali on set of City of Life where all signs pointed towards a spectacular production.

As you begin shooting how does it feel to be actually making your own movie?

I’ve been working on this film for over two years now and I have wanted to make a feature all my life. So to start bringing it to life is a dream come true, especially a first film of this size. Filming is going well, we have all the top equipment and top people working here so I’m happy.

As a UAE national what does it mean to you to be shooting a feature here thatmay transformthe industry?

There is so much amazing talent out there yet to be discovered. I feel very honoured to have this opportunity and hope that it really does unveil the UAE film industry. The pressure is on though. This has to be a success. It is the first locally made film of this scale and everyone is looking at it as the guinea pig. It is a lot for a first film but I think we will do it.

Can you give us the film’s budget and how does it compare to previous projects you have undertaken?

The film’s budget exceeds anything I have done so far and is also very high for a Middle Eastern standard. The biggest budget I have worked on to date was for a commercial that was overDh2 million.

Where were you able to obtain financing from and how easy/ difficult has it been trying to sell this project?

I have been very fortunate to have support from my investors who will all be named in a press release shortly.

How many actors are there going to be in the movie? Where are they from?

There are three lead characters; one is an Indian taxi driver who will be played by actor Sonu Sood. The wealthy Emirati lead will be played by UAE National Saoud Al Ka’abi and we are currently securing the Western lead. Other main roles include the well-known comic actor Ahmed Ahmed and a Canadian/Iraqi hip-hop phenomenon called The Narcicyst.

Making a multilingual Film is still relatively new. Do you think this will become a regular feature so films can travel easier?

Babel is the perfect example of a multilingual film. Not only did it do very well at the boxoffice, it’s an academy award winner! So I think the market is ready for this particular genre.

Have you encountered any difficulties you did not foresee or couldn’t have imagined when you began the project?

When doing anything that is new there will be obstacles. But we have a great tea mall working in the same direction. There is enough equipment at the moment to make one good feature film at a time. We have the equipment, the sets but the thing we really need are the people. There are a handful of trained film professionals which needs to change if the industry is really going to get going here.

What is that special something people require to make films?


When you were at film school did you see yourself doing a feature in your home country?

This is where I have grown up and therefore has had a massive influence on who I am. This country ismy inspiration and so I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I wanted to make something that is relevant toDubai so I came up with this story.

One thing money can’t buy?


What would your superpower be?

Stop time!

If you could go back in time where would you go?

Days of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Your biggest pet peeve in Dubai?

The driving!

In the movie of your life who would play you?


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