UAE's first major home-made film in cinemas on April 22

After three months of waiting, a release date has been announced for City Of Life, the country's first major feature film.

<i>City Of Life</i>, directed by Ali Mostafa, made its debut at the Dubai International Film Festival last year.
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After three months of waiting, a release date has been announced for City Of Life, the country's first major feature film. The 90-minute movie, which depicts three characters whose lives become entwined, will screen at 12 theatres in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah beginning on April 22. The film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival last year, and its director, Ali Mostafa, has been waiting impatiently for Gulf Film to distribute the movie since January.

"We were not given enough of their time; the people in charge of getting this film on the screens did not give 100 per cent because it is a local film," Mr Mostafa said. "It has been an unnecessary struggle. I hope this doesn't happen to anyone else." The 29-year-old Emirati began writing the film, which will kick-start the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai on April 8, four years ago and filmed it early last year.

Salim Ramia, a partner at Gulf Film, said it was important to pick the right moment to release the film. "Due to the heavy traffic of movie releases every week, at least eight movies, you need to find the right slot," he said. "It goes the same with Hollywood films. You need to find nice timing and dates, then you get a good audience. You need to see the competition against your movie." Though the film is in English, Arabic and Hindi and is subtitled in English where necessary, Mr Ramia said Gulf Film considers it an "Arabic movie" and made sure there were no other major releases in that genre on April 22.

To speed up international distribution, the City Of Life team set up an online petition so fans could demand the film be screened in their countries. After the UAE release, City Of Life will screen in the Gulf, then the subcontinent, Europe and finally the US, Mr Mostafa said. The plot concerns the lives of an Indian taxi driver, an Eastern European air hostess and a rich young Emirati. Tim Smythe, the producer, was also involved with two major Hollywood films, The Kingdom and Syriana. Local companies, he said, were hugely useful in supporting local filmmakers.

"Hopefully this trend will help nurture future films," he said. "We hope it will encourage others to support artistic initiatives, which can stimulate and enrich the cultural and economic life of the local community, and create new and exciting platforms for the development of emerging Emirati talent and a sustainable indigenous film industry." Those who have seen the film have been impressed. "For our first feature movie in the UAE, it was amazing," said Diya Khalil, a 24-year-old Jordanian national who lives in Sharjah and attended a Dubai film festival showing in December. "It will do well internationally because it will satisfy so much of the curiosity about Dubai. The story was very honest and I was surprised by this; it discusses issues that we all know and go through but we don't discuss in public."

"I have lived in Dubai for most of my life so it was good to see the sites and the storyline was good," said Ramzi Jaber, a 25-year-old Palestinian. "It is not that ground-breaking, but it did show many sides of Dubai. "It wasn't too controversial, yet it wasn't like an advertisement for Dubai either. It's a good start for a locally produced film."