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Abdulla Khalifa AlKaabi

“The Philosopher,” you got the highest budget in the history of short films, a Hollywood class actor to star in the film, and screenings in 34 film festivals worldwide.

1) For your fist movie, “The Philosopher,” you got the highest budget in the history of short films, a Hollywood class actor to star in the film, and screenings in 34 film festivals worldwide. What made your experience facilitated? And is such fast success possible for any local director?

Originally, I did not intend to shoot “The Philosopher” as a film with such high standards to be viewed worldwide. But getting this huge support was a matter of being ready in the right place, at the right time, and with the proper intentions. If you are honest about what you do and determined on your goal is, the world will “conspire” with you to get to your goal. It is about being sincere, in your intentions and work.

2) In general, what are the obstacles facing directors from the gulf region? And how do you think they have an effect on the emergence of the local industry?

The main obstacle is that there is no cinema industry in this region; there is no proper structure for filmmakers to follow. We as directors from the gulf are left to the dark unknown, struggling with no clear plan, and not knowing what will happen next. However, I am an optimist, and the improvements seen in the field of the local film industry are evident from year to year. DIFF itself is expanding and evolving evidently, and Dubai is one of the fastest developing cities, known for its ability to each greatest acheivements in shortest amounts of time, which adds to my optimism.

It is tough to create a film industry in a certain location, and it is a process that results from the accumulation of years of experience as the hosting culture itself integrates the industry as a part of it. This is why the most successful film industries worldwide are linked to the oldest ad culturally rich cities. There is the financial, creative, technical and several other sides. Beside that, we lack local cinematographers, producers, dedicated actors and actresses experienced in the field of cinema. Moreover, we need funding, especially governmental support.

DIFF is a great initiative that brings people passionate about the film industry together. It is a great platform, yet not good enough.

3) Your first film did not carry any Middle Eastern or local signatures neither in the cast, the spoken language, setting, or plot. Why did you choose such global context for your debut as a director? And how much do you think there was French influence in the taste and overall result of the film?

The film has a universal theme that could be applied to anywhere in the world, include my native country and the Arab world. It would have worked in any language, but because of the fact that I was living in France and the funding was French, in addition to practicality purposes, the movie had the elements you mentioned earlier. However, this does not make “The Philosopher” less of an Arab film. It was written by me, a pure Arab, for starters, and was based upon my perspective. However, I shot it as a western film. That was our edge.

4) Tell me more about your participating work, Girls in the Know. Will it be more aimed at the Gulf and local region? Or will you resume your global focus?

Girls in the Know is a story about Arab women, a women-centric movie. Our women are the strongest people in the region. I am tiered of how women are depicted in the majority Arab works as weak and submissive. I want to show in this film how strong and independent Arab women are, who are as strong as if not stronger than other women in other regions of the world. I focus in this movie on the universality of feminism among all women. The language of the movie will be Arabic, with mainly the Emirati and Egyptian dialects. I am creating in this film a universe that is not linked to a specific location, and I hope this work will help create a cultural bridge between the Arab countries. The characters from this movie have been inspired from true characters around me, including my mother and aunts.

5) How much do your personal views as an auteur affect the production you are working on? And what are the external factors that face you and which can interfere and limit the effect of the director and the image he wants to give in the film?

In directing, the vision or story is always better in your head. In reality, there are many limitations you will face in the actual process of production. However, I consider those limitations a good thing for production though, because they provide the director with a clear framework, which help the director focus and prevent him or her from being overwhelmed. Those limitations, however, differ from one director to the other depending on the director’s up-bringing, environment, culture…etc.

6) What do you think of the emerging Gulf film industry? And what is your advice to the beginners aiming to join this field from your countrymen and countrywomen?

There is a cinema movement taking place in the region, and soon we will see many films coming from the gulf countries. Films are eternal; you never forget having watched a film. That is why we should support cinema in the gulf, as it would be a means of recording and preserving its history.

I want to tell the beginning directors from this region to work, shoot, attend festivals, create their networks, and do all what is possible to get involved in the field. They do not have an excuse. They all have mobile phones with good cameras, they should use them to shoot. The quality of the work doe not matter, it is the way they use it. Even though my first movie, “The Philosopher,” gained international success and a lot of support, I had worked prior to it for many years for production companies, running errands for them, attending festivals, and doing all what I could to build a good network, and I still work hard. It is my strongest inner belief that if someone wants something, they should work real hard to achieve it. There is no impossible.

7) What is the importance of awards such as the IWC awards to the gulf film industry? And do you think the local film industry is receiving the sufficient support and recognition?

It is fantastic to have help from IWC. This help cam in the right time exactly when we needed it. These awards will provide us with the needed exposure and credibility, as being listed by the reputable jury of the IWC awards is an honor for us as directors. We as directors need a lot of support, and now we are getting the support from corporates. This shows how IWC is committed to the gulf film industry, to which I am very grateful.


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