An exclusive trailer for Emirati director Ali Mostafa's third film, Worthy, was unveiled on Sunday night at the Dubai International Film Festival.
The Image Nation-produced movie, a post-apocalyptic thriller set in a future where water is scarce, represents something of a new direction for the director of City of Life (2009), which is credited as being the first Emirati feature film, and From A to B (2015).
“As a filmmaker, it’s important to me to try to be as diverse as I can and work in different styles,” he says. “I guess I picked that up in commercials early on. I didn’t want to be typecast for a certain style.
“When I did commercials there was a period when I was only selected to do Emirati-themed campaigns, or Ramadan campaigns or National Day campaigns. I didn’t want to be boxed in to those things so I’ve always tried to diversify, even with commercials in the early days.
"When it came to film I felt the same and wanted to show that it didn't matter what the script was about, I could handle it. So I started with City of Life which was an ensemble piece, a drama, then From A to B, which was [essentially] a comedy, very different from City of Life.
“When Image Nation approached me with Worthy it was all action, thriller, gore — very different, so very exciting for me to see if I could make it work.”
Producer Rami Yasin says that the film represents another stage in the development of the UAE film industry.
“I started out here producing films with very little in the way of action or special effects,” he says. “Image Nation have given us the resources and ability to do these very high-thriller and high-action scenes in a really advanced way with high production values.
"If you look at Zinzana [also produced by Image Nation, which screened at Diff and is on general release now], it had its fair share of stunts and SFX and a really experienced team from Europe and Jordan, and this is quadruple what we had on that. We had to put ourselves out there with a really top team of professional people. It was a really interesting challenge."
The comparison of Worthy with to Zinzana don't end with the special effects — both films fit very much into "genre cinema" territory.
But Image Nation head of development, Ben Ross, assures us that Image Nation isn’t shifting its focus — only broadening it.
"It's not as genre-specific as people might think," he says. "If something's great we just wanna go out and do it, and it's really just a coincidence that both this and Zinzana were genre pieces — we work in all sorts of different genres.
"We just want to tell good stories. There's a lot of untapped talent here and I've been lucky to work with Ali and Rami and Majid [Al Ansari, director of Zinzana], and been given the tools to go out and make these films and it's been very exciting. I think we're making real progress."
Mostafa concludes with a positive prediction for the future of Emirati cinema: “This is the 12th year of the festival and we have 12 Emirati films [screening]. That’s never happened before. I think we have an incredible future ahead.”
The trailer — what we learnt
The teaser trailer for Worthy is just 30 seconds long and doesn't give too much away — but we can see life does not look very good for the characters.
A ragged-looking man walks over a deserted bridge, with abandoned cars strewn across the road. An ominous voice over tells us: “The end came quickly.” Cut to a fast-paced montage of explosions, gunfire and action — and then with one final explosion, it’s over.
It certainly looks set to be an adrenalin-fuelled roller coaster of end-of-the-world action — Mostafa suggests it is possibly the Arab world's first post-apocalyptic movie — and fans of films such as Mad Max and 28 Days Later look like they could be about to get an Arabic film to add to their viewing list.