Dubai is an incredible story; it should win an Oscar: Idris Elba

The actor lauded the emirate's incredible advances in tourism, praising the power of the city's spellbinding narrative


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Tue 14 Feb 2023, 7:41 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Feb 2023, 8:59 PM

Actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador Idris Elba has praised Dubai for its power of storytelling. “Dubai is an incredible story,” he said. “It is an incredible tourism story. The power of the narrative of 'this is Dubai, come and check it out', has been the one that is incredible. I think Dubai should win an Oscar, because the movie is incredible.”

Elba was in conversation with Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks on the Craft of Storytelling on Day 2 of the World Government Summit (WGS).

Katzenberg also praised Dubai, calling it a miracle. “I have been coming to Dubai for 15 years,” he said. “And I cannot think of a bigger or more exciting miracle than what I have seen happen in this city, in this country. Every time I am here, something incredible has come; something that you can be proud of, something that is iconic.”

Earlier this week, both Katzenberg and Elba were honoured by TIME as the recipients of its TIME100 Impact Awards, which recognises leaders from across the globe who have gone above and beyond to move their industries and the world forward, at an event held at the Museum of the Future.

Bolstering tourism

Katzenberg highlighted how storytelling can do a lot to bolster tourism, with the examples of movies Out of Africa – released in 1985 – and Lion King, which his studio released in 1994.

“Those two movies literally were the catalyst for the tourism industry in Africa,” he said. “As you know today, it is one of the leading economic drivers on the continent. What happened is, [around] our stories, our storytelling and our romanticising of the visuals was a lighthouse that brought people there to see something that they experienced through our movies.”

Katzenberg also described how movies celebrate the cultures and values of countries. “In their success, they are ambassadors that go out to the rest of the world and celebrate all of the things that are wonderful [in] each of their countries.”

Elba, who has made several movies in Africa, wants to continue making movies in the continent. “I want to make more [films] because I believe that Africa as a continent needs to hold a narrative,” he said. “The way the world has viewed Africa needs a shift.”

Creating jobs

Another discussion during the session was how the creative industry could unlock the potential of countries, with the youthful population facing significant unemployment. “The creative arts sector offers so many types of jobs,” said Elba. “You can be in tech, you can be in fitness, you can be in health, you can be in policy inside the one industry. [The industries have...] many tentacles that can offer young people employment opportunities.”

He explained that this is why governments should look at putting in place policies to promote filmmaking and the setting up of creative industries in their countries. He encouraged countries to set up a taskforce to research how such industries could benefit the economy. He also said it was important to get young people involved in the process because it takes a long time to get a creative industry set up. “It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “Young people can stand the test of time.”

He gave the example of how Greece turned around their fortunes with this approach. “Greece was on its knees financially,” he said. “It turned the country around financially by building a tax incentive that allowed film companies to come to Greece. It bolstered tourism, it bolstered employment.”

Democratising filmmaking

Technology has helped to democratise filmmaking, according to the speakers. “It used to be that you had to go build these giant studios,” said Katzenberg. “That was the lighthouse that would draw people to you to have “production facilities”. Everything has now become digitised and that has become now less important.”

Elba agreed and said that there needs to be a focus on educating youngsters about using technology. “The education component is important because it is an incubator of thoughts,” he said. “Democratisation of film and tech is happening. You can now make a film on your phone. However, it is really important that there is a casing for young people to move towards. That is where education comes it.”


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