Films in UAE

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The film industry of United Arab Emirates, compared to the film industry in the United States, is relatively young. The first full-length Emirati film was released during the late 1980s, while the full-length films of the United States was first released during the early 1900s. The history of filmmaking in this Emirati state is short, and its audience is small (UAE Media and Film Industry, 2017; Al Bustani, 2015). Even though the blockbuster film called Mission Impossible: The Ghost Protocol was shot in UAE (it even showcased the city that led to tourism boom) the movie was not a homegrown film.

One of the issues is that the filmmaking industry lacked of funds and support. The country has Dubai Media City that was established more than a decade ago and it has 1,800 companies that produced around 7,000 media production, majority of those products were commercials and TV shows. Although the country has film festivals like Dubai and Abu Dhabi film festivals that provide generous grants to UAE filmmakers, the amount are not near millions of dollars needed to produce full length feature films. Acquiring such capital requires the skills of a producer (Hill, 2013).

Therefore, lack of skilled producers is another reason why full length feature film is rare in UAE. The CEO and Founder of Alcatraz, Ammar Al Khrisat stated that one of the major problems is due to lack of talented film producers. Alcatraz is a product company in Dubai that focuses on TV, commercials and film. They have a hard time finding producers of full-length films and commercials in television still serve as the bread-and-butter for production firms in the country (Hill, 2013).

Lack of support from the government is another issue. The government should provide more funding for fledgling filmmakers. The government of Dubai has invested billions on infrastructure. However, they should also invest in culture since it represents the soul of the city. They must establish grant programs for local films. On the other hand, the chairman of Dubai Film and TV Commission named Jamal Al Shariff stated that the problem is that the government only wants to fund films with ROI potential, but no local films has produced an ROI yet (Hill, 2013).

An Emirate producer and director Al Khaja also complain about the high fees imposed by the private company to enable film shooting on their premises. For producers, the costs are hard to bear, and it also adds more burdens for filmmakers. The worst part is that the companies do not distinguish between shooting a Pepsi commercial and shooting a small budget movie since fees are the same. It costs them around Dh30, 000 per day to shoot in a Dubai mall (Hill, 2013).

Another problem is that film distributors will not consider films that used the Arabic language. Al-Sharif claimed that cinemas prefer mostly Hollywood and then Bollywood films, not the Arab movies. It is harder to distribute Arabic language films since the English language movies are easier to distribute and sell. Nevertheless, the success of a Saudi film called Wadjda only proved that an Arab country could create a cultural film, which is worth of international acclaim and attention even though the language used was mainly Arabic (Hill, 2013).

Hiring an Emirati female to play as a local girl is difficult because many women in UAE do not want to see themselves on screen. They have to pick a foreigner to play for the role, making the film, not a pure Emirati movie. Despite the hurdles, the film industry is still hopeful that their situation would change considering that the UAE film industry is still young compared to Hollywood and Bollywood Film industry.


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