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DUBAI - A career in the film making industry intrigues creative minds. Being able to tell a story and create compelling visuals that bridge cultures is a dream come true. And, a few Emiratis are willing to take risks and share stories through films.


Muaz Shabandri

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Published: Tue 28 Dec 2010, 9:58 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:07 AM

“Even if we have few film makers in the UAE, we manage to come out with quality films that make a name for themselves internationally,” says Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Artistic Director, Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).

With 70 to 80 films produced every year in the UAE, the success stories of the likes of Nayla Al Khaja and Ali Mostafa have motivated Emirati students to make a name for themselves in the film industry.

“Students looking to make a career in film making need to think visually and be aware of the different cultures that surround them. In the coming years, there will be a great demand for directors, screen writers and editors in the UAE. Also, there are not many producers who can work as match-makers between the film maker and the financer. These roles need to be explored by students,” adds Masoud.

Fresh from the success of her latest movie Mallal, Nayla Al Khaja strongly feels the need for backing students who seek the support of industry professionals to guide them.

“There are many Emirati women who go abroad to study subjects like medicine, architecture and engineering but very few explore the opportunities in film studies. It is important to explore the film industry in other parts of the world because it gives you a better understanding of world cultures.

If going abroad is not an option, these students can take up internships at production companies involved in producing TV commercials. Although it may not be film making in the actual sense, it is a great way to gain exposure and understand the dynamics of camera, lighting, sound and production,” adds Nayla who regularly works with interns at her production house.

“Being passionate about film making is really important because there are a lot of sacrifices that need to be made,” added Nayla. “At the end of the day, the films should last for years and should capture a moment of history and culture in them.”

However, Nayla laments the modest education opportunities and strict cultural limitations placed on Emirati women interested in film studies as most students are put off with the provisos.

“An Emirati family might object to their daughter studying at a film school but they should understand and place their trust in their kids. Being an Emirati, I feel it is our responsibility to share our stories with the world so that they know about our cultures and traditions,” says Nayla.

It is a very ‘difficult’ industry according to Ali Mostafa, a leading Emirati filmmaker, who says he survived by producing TV commercials.

“Making income from short-films is difficult but we need more local talent to come into this field. Although they might not have a background in filmmaking, they can get practical experience by working with production houses.”

“A lot of Emiratis are going out and making films but not all of them do it for a living. Most of them make experimental films as part of their hobby and there are only a handful of them who make films for a living,” says Ali Mostafa,

City Of Life, which was Ali Mostafa’s first feature film, took four years to complete with a budget of $5million. He says, the movie was made to ‘prove a point.’

“I wanted to show the world that we are able to make films of good quality in the UAE and the movie is out there to prove the point.”

“The problem is we don’t have enough cinemas to screen the movies coming out of this region. Also, we don’t have an Emirati crew who can work in specialised roles. We are still in the early stages, but there will be a lot of students who will come to this industry in the next few years,” adds Ali who is currently working on his second feature film, a road movie from Abu Dhabi to Beirut.

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