Film industry insiders at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr discuss Abu Dhabi as a location for making movies.
Film industry insiders at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr discuss Abu Dhabi as a location for making movies.

Abu Dhabi Film Festival proves a capital promotion

The first panel discussion of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival was, quite suitably, regarding the city itself, as players on the growing film landscape discussed the increasing number of opportunities available for international filmmakers in the capital.

The Making Movies in Abu Dhabi talk, held in the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, began with the big question: why should people want to shoot films here?

"You're seeing Abu Dhabi emerge as a production centre," said Wayne Borg, the deputy chief executive of twofour54, the government-backed media zone. "Two or three years ago there wasn't much happening in the way of production and there have been concerted efforts happening right across the spectrum. There's a real emphasis here on the creative industries."

Borg pointed to new infrastructure such as studios, post-production facilities and digital facilities that have helped foster development.

"We've even introduced a visa scheme for freelancers here. It's all about improving the ability of filmmakers and producers to work here efficiently and effectively."

David Shepheard is the director of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, which actively aims to promote the capital as a destination for shooting films. He suggested that because the city had yet to be featured in many films it was a perfect unexplored and alternative backdrop.

"It's not been profiled that much. It's still quite new and fresh, and there are lots of new locations that haven't been seen in feature films before. It's still a city in motion, it's still being built and every day there seems to be a new piece of iconic architecture."

Shepheard said that the commission tries to match locations around Abu Dhabi to new scripts that they read. But not all films are suitable for Abu Dhabi. Anyone who bothered to see the largely abysmal Sex and the City 2 might have noticed that the "Abu Dhabi" Carrie and the girls paraded their Jimmy Choos through didn't look much like the real thing. It was actually shot in Morocco.

"We read scripts all the time, and not all storylines are appropriate to be filmed in the Arab world and certainly not the UAE," said Shepheard.

Abu Dhabi's progress on the film front was news to an audience composed largely of film directors and producers.

"The one thing that I have just heard that I had no idea about, was that you had studio space here," said one audience member, a producer working in Europe. "I'm sure I speak for many people here that nobody understood this before."

Borg said that to attract people to use this studio space, the organisation was working with the Abu Dhabi Film Commission to offer an incentives package.

"It'll be to attract one-off projects to bring their productions here. It's something we're working on right now and we hope to come to the market with the incentives package early next year."

Although attracting films to the UAE was one side of the discussion's focus, another major element of the talk was regarding building up the skill base within the country.

Mohammed Al Otaiba, the recently appointed head of Image Nation Abu Dhabi, the newly formed division of the film production house which aims to focus on supporting local filmmakers, and is also owned by The National's parent company Abu Dhabi Media, outlined his plan.

"Our core business is to make films that sell and are entertaining, but also over the next five years the idea is to invest in the talent here and give them that opportunity to be part of the industry and find jobs."

Providing some proof of the growth for filmmakers in the country, Sea Shadow, Image Nation's first Emirati film and shot in the UAE by the local director Nawaf Al-Janahi, will receive its world premiere at the Abu Dhabi Theatre on Wednesday.

"A lot of the people in front of and behind the camera come from here," said Al Otaiba. "We offered that opportunity for young talent aspiring to be part of the industry to join the film and gain the experience, and then take that experience perhaps to another project."

Al Otaiba said that Image Nation's forthcoming UAE-based film, a horror called Djinn, was filmed in Ras Al Khaimah.

Although this film had the renowned US horror director Tobe Hooper behind the camera, Al Otaiba said efforts had been made to provide a chance for more local people to get involved. "Again, we were offering opportunities to UAE talent to join the film set and gain from the expertise brought to the UAE."

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5


Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

The specs

Engine: 2.3-litre 4cyl turbo
Power: 299hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 2,750rpm
Transmission: 10-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 12.4L/100km
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh157,395 (XLS); Dh199,395 (Limited)

Marathon results


1. Titus Ekiru(KEN) 2:06:13 

2. Alphonce Simbu(TAN) 2:07:50 

3. Reuben Kipyego(KEN) 2:08:25 

4. Abel Kirui(KEN) 2:08:46 

5. Felix Kemutai(KEN) 2:10:48  


1. Judith Korir(KEN) 2:22:30 

2. Eunice Chumba(BHR) 2:26:01 

3. Immaculate Chemutai(UGA) 2:28:30 

4. Abebech Bekele(ETH) 2:29:43 

5. Aleksandra Morozova(RUS) 2:33:01  


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

List of UAE medal winners

Faisal Al Ketbi (Open weight and 94kg)
Talib Al Kirbi (69kg)
Omar Al Fadhli (56kg)

Zayed Al Kaabi (94kg)
Khalfan Belhol (85kg)
Zayed Al Mansoori (62kg)
Mouza Al Shamsi (49kg women)

Yahia Mansour Al Hammadi (Open and +94kg)
Saood Al Hammadi (77kg)
Said Al Mazroui (62kg)
Obaid Al Nuaimi (56kg)
Bashayer Al Matrooshi (62kg women)
Reem Abdulkareem (45kg women)


Age: 50

Known as the UAE’s strongest man

Favourite dish: “Everything and sea food”

Hobbies: Drawing, basketball and poetry

Favourite car: Any classic car

Favourite superhero: The Hulk original

Everybody Loves Touda

Director: Nabil Ayouch 

Starring: Nisrin Erradi, Joud Chamihy, Jalila Talemsi

Rating: 4/5


Engine: 1.5-litre turbo

Power: 181hp

Torque: 230Nm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Starting price: Dh79,000

On sale: Now