Adrenalin-packed Emirati drift-racing film opens in Abu Dhabi

Hajwala, a film about two young Emirati boys with a passion for drift-racing, opened at Nation Towers in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
Yousef Almahmoodi at the red carpet premiere for Hajwala. Vidhyaa for The National
Yousef Almahmoodi at the red carpet premiere for Hajwala. Vidhyaa for The National

Emirati actors and local film talent walked the red carpet on Tuesday, tweeting and Snapchatting with fans at the premiere of a high-octane movie aimed at accelerating the reputation of the UAE film industry.

Hundreds gathered at VOX Cinema at Nation Towers in Abu Dhabi for the unveiling of Hajwala, a film that tells the story of two young Emirati boys, Khalid and Kehailan, whose passion for fast cars steers them toward the dangerous – and potentially deadly – world of drift-racing, placing their passion for adrenalin on a collision course with their love for their families.

Starring Yasser Al Jarraf, Omar Aljabri, Haleem Aljabri, Anwar Aljabri and Ali Almarzouqi, the 100-minute movie – in Arabic with English subtitles, and directed by Ali Bin Matar and Ibrahim Bin Mohamed – is intended to blend entertainment with a social message for young people, while at the same time showcasing the UAE’s burgeoning film talent.

“It is about the challenge of winning and losing,” said Bin Mohamed, who also helped write the script. “It tells the tale of two groups vying against each other. The movie also spells out what happens after this challenge – for the families, for the children – and addresses the relationships it affects.”

The film was shot with Emirati stuntmen.

“There was no cinematic trickery,” said Bin Mohamed. “So filming was quite tense and stressful at times.”

According to Bin Mohamed the crew was selected on their talent behind a wheel as much as their acting ability. “We brought in people who knew how to drive the way we wanted the cars to be driven in the movie. We brought them in and taught them how to act.”

Despite being a film people can enjoy, it also has a serious message that can resonate with UAE audiences. “It is about driving safely in accordance with the law, while the movie has a lot of other messages, such as social responsibility and caring of family,” said Bin Mohamed, adding that the film shows “a lot of car action” and the drifting style unique to the Gulf, with modified four-wheel vehicles, often spinning the car on two wheels.

Dangerous stunts involved the drivers tilting the vehicles almost 45 degrees on one side. Emirati Ali Al Marzooqi said the film was the third he had produced.

“The movie is very entertaining for family, for kids, for ladies, for all,” he said. “The movie can be shown in all Middle Eastern countries – Qatar, Oman, Bahrain. We are expecting a lot of positive feedback from audiences and we expect more than 150,000 people to come and watch and support this film.”

Shooting Hajwala, which had an all-Emirati cast of about 30, took 30 days. It was shot in desert locations across Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain.

Bin Matar hopes the film demonstrates the nation’s home-grown creative capabilities and potential as a location for Hollywood film crews.

“I think Abu Dhabi and Dubai have their own commissions for TV and film, and they invest a lot in this so all filmmakers can enjoy this infrastructure in the UAE,” he said. “We think it will bring the country more interest, exposure and attraction.”

More information is available at, where the trailer can be viewed. Screening times can be found on the VOX Cinemas website at

Published: September 27, 2016 04:00 AM


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