When Ali F Mostafa's third movie, The Worthy, hits cinemas tomorrow, it will mark a couple of significant milestones – for Arab film in general and Emirati cinema in particular.
The movie could already reasonably claim to be the first Arab post-apocalyptic thriller to go on general release, and this week it was announced that it will be the first Arabic-language movie screened in the 4DX format at Vox Cinemas, featuring moving seats, smoke, wind and water effects, and even smells.
Emirati director Mostafa says he is excited at the prospect, though he admits he was largely a bystander in the decision to adapt the movie to 4DX.
“When we first screened the film to the distributors, Vox, one of them just said: ‘This would make a great 4DX film’,” he says. Vox chief executive Cameron Mitchell clearly agrees.
“With so many action scenes and edge-of-your-seat moments, this is the perfect film for 4DX,” says Mitchell. “Audiences can expect water effects such as mist and rain, wind, with a gentle breeze or turbulent storm – they are going to have a truly exhilarating time.”
To create the experience, the film was sent overseas to 4DX specialists, who programme the seat movements and effects to match the on-screen action.
Mostafa says he was not familiar with the format before discovering his movie would be adapted.
“I must admit, I’ve never experienced a 4DX film,” he says. “I was really surprised to learn that apparently every other film with elements of action and so on, they screen in 4DX – and this has been going on for at least a couple of years.
“Apparently they do really well, and audiences love it. But I have to admit it’s something I’ve only really experienced at a funfair with the kids.”
Mostafa now finds himself in the unusual position for a director of preparing to present a movie in a format he has not experienced to the audience during a private 4DX preview tonight – which means it will be a first for both Mostafa and the audience.
“I’m doubly excited because not only is it the first Arab film to get the 4DX treatment, but it will also be the first 4DX film I’ve experienced when I watch the preview,” he says.
“I wish I could see it sooner – I’m introducing the film, so I’d really like to know what it’s like in 4DX first, but I’m going to find out with everyone else. It sounds fun, though, like a whole new experience of watching a movie.
“It’s another landmark for Arab cinema, and for myself too I guess. It’s a pretty cool landmark to have.”
The release of the film in Mostafa’s home country marks the end of a long journey to the screen, from the initial announcement at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2014 and the unveiling of the first trailer at the same event a year later, to its world premiere at the London Film Festival last October and the regional premiere at Diff in December.
Mostafa admits there is a bittersweet side to the release.
“It’s an amazing feeling, but there’s always these concerns as a director that if the first weekend doesn’t do well, then it won’t trickle down,” he says.
“I’m sure everybody that goes to see it, 4DX or not, will enjoy it. Everyone I know who has seen it has enjoyed it, whether they’re fans of the genre or not. They’ve walked away with an experience.
“It had a tremendous screening in London, we had a crazy screening at Diff where people were applauding during the movie – so let’s just hope we can keep that going.”
With the door left open for a sequel, this is another reason for the director to hope audiences share his enthusiasm for the movie.
“At the end of the day, the importance of us making these movies is that the movies get seen, and I really want to get the message out there that the film is in cinemas,” he says.
Spreading the word is clearly particularly important to Mostafa following critical praise, but disappointing box office returns, for his previous movie, road-trip comedy From A to B.
“Unfortunately, with my second film I even had some of my closest friends ask me, ‘When’s it releasing?’ – and it had already been in cinemas for two weeks,” he says.
“I really want to get the message out there that this is in cinemas, and I promise viewers that if they go to see it they won’t have a disappointing experience.”
• The Worthy is in cinemas from Thursday, February 23.
Check out our review in Thursday’s Arts & Life