ADFF highlights growing film scene in UAE

Given that our host country is only decades old, its film industry is unarguably new — budding and expanding. The Abu Dhabi Film Festival epitomizes ...

Nov 2, 2013

Given that our host country is only decades old, its film industry is unarguably new — budding and expanding. The Abu Dhabi Film Festival epitomizes the rapidly burgeoning film industry and the promising opportunities it holds.
This year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival opened with the first Emirati supernatural-thriller “Djinn.” The film, first announced three years prior at the Cannes Film Festival, was set in an abandoned fishing village in Al Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah.
Directed by Hollywood horror expert Tobe Hooper, known for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Poltergeist”, “Djinn” hinges on a phenomenon widely known in the Arab world — the legend of Djinn, or genies. The narrative revolves around an Emirati couple that returns to the UAE only to move into an apartment built on a haunted fishing village. For senior Theatre and Film and New Media major Adam Pivirotto, the film was underwhelming.
“As a film boasted to be the first major horror film shot in the UAE, it was sad to hear that a large part of the movie was shot in a soundstage in [Los Angeles],” Pivirotto says.
Other Arab films were showcased at the festival; among them were features such as “Hanging Dates Under Aleppo’s Citadel,” “In the Sands of Babylon,” and shorts from the Emirates Film Competition. Currently in its 12th year as a part of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Emirates Film Competition provides a platform for emerging Emirati directors to showcase their short films. The festival screened 39 Emirati films in competition and 9 out of competition.
The competition reflects the creativity of local filmmakers and the fast-growing film industry of a relatively new nation.
Emirati sophomore Shakhbout Alkaabi said the Abu Dhabi Film Festival was evidence of an expansion in the UAE film industry
“We have to start from the bottom to achieve success,” Alkaabi said. “ I really believe in the film industry in my country, especially after witnessing how our sheikhs are putting in so much effort to make it as successful as possible. I feel responsible for improving our film industry and [being] a big part of this change.”
For some students, like senior Film and New Media major Máté Bede-Fazekas, the film scene in the UAE is different from that in New York.
“In New York, the opportunities to work on film productions are limitless,” said Bede-Fazekas. “I personally made my own films, worked on friend’s films and also helped out on graduate and professional productions, without even really making the effort to get on sets. These were some of the most rewarding experiences in terms of my education.”
Pivirotto expressed a similar sentiment.
“In New York there is a relatively constant flow of work for filmmakers,” he said. “There is also a strong independent filmmaking scene, whereas in the UAE emphasis is placed on forming a larger industry and making blockbuster, highly commercial films.”
Although Bede-Fazekas said that Abu Dhabi does not live up to the same standards of circumstance that New York has, he conceded that,  “what you get here instead is a different sense of possibility.”
Senior lecturer and Capstone advisor Jennifer Roth, who has produced big-name films such as “Black Swan,” said that the prospects for job opportunities for NYUAD students post-graduation are great.
“Film is a very popular medium and there is a need for it in numerous workplaces,” said Roth. “That said, there is no question that arts majors will face more challenges in the job market than engineering or math majors, but that is the nature of being an arts major.
Bede-Fazekas is optimistic about his future in film and agreed that there are numerous opportunities both in university and after graduation.
“The film industry is in its early stages and you can do a lot to become a part of actually building it,” said Bede-Fazekas.
Julia Saubier is a staff writer. Email her at
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