Nayla Al Khaja’s films regularly tackle taboos. Fatima Al Marzouqi / The National
Nayla Al Khaja’s films regularly tackle taboos. Fatima Al Marzouqi / The National

Emirati director Nayla Al Khaja back to push movie limits



The Emirati director Nayla Al Khaja has entered into development on her debut feature and, in typical Al Khaja fashion, she’s avoiding the safe topics again. The director’s films have previously dealt with issues including child abuse (Arabana, 2006), teenage dating in Dubai (Once, 2009) and arranged marriage (Malal, 2010).

Fans may have thought she was losing her edge with her most recent film, 2013’s The Neighbour. The film won the Dubai International Film Festival’s Muhr Emitrati award in December, but, by Al Khaja’s standards, the heartwarming tale of a British expat who clashes with her Emirati neighbour before the two women form a comedic, Lost in Translation-style bond because of their mutual loneliness does lack a certain central “issue”.

Al Khaja admits that this was probably “my safest film to date”. She jokingly adds: “Because it was commissioned by Dubai Culture.”

It sounds like she won’t be pulling any punches with her latest, as-yet-untitled film, however.

“It’s about how far a mother is prepared to go to save her son,” she says. “I guess it’s going to be a bit controversial. In three words it’s about exorcism in Islam, and what a family did to exorcise their son.”

Al Khaja is not seeking controversy for its own sake. She explains that, despite the dramatic subject matter, the film is essentially a family story, based on families that she actually knows, including one whose child died because of an exorcism gone wrong.

She adds that this story of ancient practices and the parents’ clashing belief systems is a significant one in a rapidly developing city such as Dubai.

“It’s a very old practice still taking place in a cosmopolitan city like Dubai. Exorcism is still practised across the Arab world every day because the djinn are in the Quran and so they’re believed in. I think it’ll be a great film to make because of that contrast. I think it’ll bring up a lot of questions.”

Al Khaja adds that the film is still in its very early developmental stages and could be two or three years away from completion. However, a co-production partnership between Paris and Dubai is already taking shape, with Al Khaja hopeful of attaining further funding from Doha.

She will be writing the script in Amsterdam in collaboration with a Dutch-Tunisian screenwriter, who she notes is “the right guy for the job”.

Sui Dhaaga: Made in India

Director: Sharat Katariya

Starring: Varun Dhawan, Anushka Sharma, Raghubir Yadav

3.5/5

MATCH INFO

South Africa 66 (Tries: De Allende, Nkosi, Reinach (3), Gelant, Steyn, Brits, Willemse; Cons: Jantjies 8) 

Canada 7 (Tries: Heaton; Cons: Nelson)

The biog

Name: Atheja Ali Busaibah

Date of birth: 15 November, 1951

Favourite books: Ihsan Abdel Quddous books, such as “The Sun will Never Set”

Hobbies: Reading and writing poetry

 


 

The specs

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Transmission: 5-speed automatic and manual
Power: 280 brake horsepower
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Junichiro
Tamizaki
Translated by Paul McCarthy
Daunt Books 

SQUADS

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Wahab Riaz

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kusal Mendis, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Lakshan Sandakan, Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando, Lahiru Gamage

Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG) and Nigel Llong (ENG)
TV umpire: Richard Kettleborough (ENG)
ICC match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)

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Director: Omar Hilal
Stars: Muhammad Farrag, Bayoumi Fouad, Nelly Karim
Rating: 4/5

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Started: July 2016

Founders: Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori

Based: Bangalore, India

Sector: Health & wellness

Size: 500 employees

Investment: $250 million

Investors: Accel, Oaktree Capital (US); Chiratae Ventures, Epiq Capital, Innoven Capital, Kalaari Capital, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Piramal Group’s Anand Piramal, Pratithi Investment Trust, Ratan Tata (India); and Unilever Ventures (Unilever’s global venture capital arm)

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

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Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

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Date started: July 2020

Founders: Omar and Humaid Alzaabi

Based: Abu Dhabi

Sector: HealthTech

# of staff: 10

Funding to date: Self-funded

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

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: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

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Director: Deon Taylor

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy, Meagan Good

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Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

THE BIO

Occupation: Specialised chief medical laboratory technologist

Age: 78

Favourite destination: Always Al Ain “Dar Al Zain”

Hobbies: his work  - “ the thing which I am most passionate for and which occupied all my time in the morning and evening from 1963 to 2019”

Other hobbies: football

Favorite football club: Al Ain Sports Club

 

The specs

Engine: Two permanent-magnet synchronous AC motors

Transmission: two-speed

Power: 671hp

Torque: 849Nm

Range: 456km

Price: from Dh437,900 

On sale: now

ACC 2019: The winners in full

Best Actress Maha Alemi, Sofia

Best Actor Mohamed Dhrif, Weldi  

Best Screenplay Meryem Benm’Barek, Sofia  

Best Documentary Of Fathers and Sons by Talal Derki

Best Film Yomeddine by Abu Bakr Shawky

Best Director Nadine Labaki, Capernaum
 

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The biog

Favourite book: You Are the Placebo – Making your mind matter, by Dr Joe Dispenza

Hobby: Running and watching Welsh rugby

Travel destination: Cyprus in the summer

Life goals: To be an aspirational and passionate University educator, enjoy life, be healthy and be the best dad possible.