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••• The International Writers Magazine: Film Making in the Desert

UAE becomes hub attraction for international film-making
• Marwan Asmar

UAE Filming

The UAE is becoming a prime location for top international movies. Today, it stands as the third global center for film-making after Hollywood and Bollywood.  In just 10 years it climbed the cinematographic ladder for the hosting, making, directing and producing international blockbuster hit films in cinemas all over the world.
The United Arab Emirates established itself as a niche market of a burgeoning film sector proving itself as a spiraling source of revenue into millions of dollars and generating. Indeed, Film-making in the Emirates has become second nature because of infrastructure of studios, production and qualified personnel to feed prestigious and high-tech movies being produced in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and different parts of the country.
As a result, international film corporations started flocking to this important region of the Middle East. Multi-million dollar productions like Star Trek Beyond (2016), Star Wars, Episode VII, the Force Awakens (2015), Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), The Fast and Furious (2015) and many more came to be filmed in different parts of the country because of the incredible setting and ambiance and the urbanized lurid structures and elongated skyscrapers and palatial golden deserts and sun dunes making it ideal for different locations and settings.
Memories continue to roll about the Mission Impossible picture as people hark back to seeing international star icon Tom Cruise dangling from Burj Khalifa at 1700 feet up in the air as cameramen scrambled to get the best shots. Around 400 crew members were on location in the UAE to produce a star-studded attraction making it a huge publicity event for the country.
Similarly, Star Trek was partly shot in the UAE. Star Trek producer Jeffrey Chernov roamed the world to come up with the ideal location. Finally, he chose Dubai as the “fictional space city” because of its night electrical ambiance with the glitz and the glittering lights.

Star Wars For Star Wars, the production team built a shuttle-like spacecraft, large tower and life-sized market in the Abu Dhabi desert with the film becoming a blockbuster that in the first 10 days of its release its revenues broke global records.

This was just the tip of the film iceberg as in the last decade the Emirates became a prime location for many Hollywood blockbusters starting with Syriana, (2005) with George Clooney and Matt Damon leading a star cast on a 15-location sprawl shot in Dubai.
This set the scene for other Hollywood star actors like Michael Douglas in Wall Street Money Never Sleeps (2010), Brad Pitt in the War Machine (2015) and Jackie Chan in Kung Fu Yoga (2017) and many more. Although, the last film is a Chinese-Indian production Chan is much loved in the Arab world for his antics. In October 2015 when he a completed 33-day shoot, he appeared in Dubai at a camel race wearing the Emirati traditional thob.
The Emirates has also become a major center-point for Bollywood film-makers. More and more Indian films than ever before are being shot in the UAE and especially in Abu Dhabi. In 2015, four Bollywood films were shot at the same time with top Indian actors like Shroukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Katrina Kaif and many more. 
The line-up for the future is growing fast because of the encouragement given by UAE authorities. In the forefront is the Abu Dhabi Film Commission and its creative “Twofour54” media lab, offering movie makers who chose UAE locations a 30 percent rebate on overall cost.
Similarly, the Dubai Film and TV Commission and the Dubai Film Festival, which the travel and luxury magazine Conde Nest Traveler put as one of the 15 most important movie festivals in the world, are encouraging film producers to come film in the UAE because of the large studios – Dubai has at 18 – and the widespread areas for outside filming. This means the UAE film sector is growing from strength to strength attracting top international producers like Jerry Bruckheimer of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' film series fame who made the Beware the Night paranormal thriller with flashback scenes in UAE locations in 2013.
There is definitely much more. From 2013 to 2017 Abu Dhabi became host to 21 Arabic dramas, 10 of these were made this year, which is not finished yet. Many dramas are being completed in the UAE, as opposed to other parts of the Arab world were filming was traditionally made in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
It is the sky’s the limit for the UAE. Today young Emirati directors are emerging daily and making their own films with some winning awards. Up to 100 short and feature are films being made yearly according to experts. Some Emirati film directors like Nayla Al Khaja, first UAE’s film director, Ali F. Mustafa, Nawaf Al Janahi and Abdullah Hassan Al Ahmad are becoming household names, directing and producing their own original materials.
Mustafa for example, a British-Emirati, has become an established film-maker with a number of films to his name including City of Life (2008), From A to B which opened in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the Worthy which was produced in early 2017 that is a dystopian feature of a water crisis. He might parallel many emerging Emirati directors like Abdullah Al Kaabi for his Men Go to the Grave that won the Muhr Award of the Dubai International Film Festival in 2016.
Thus from an all-rounded point of viewpoint, the UAE has indeed become an international center for attracting film-makers and this is set to continue for the future.
© Marwan Asmar Dec 2017
marwan.asmar59 at

*An edited version of this article appeared in Gulf News.
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