Regional turmoil puts Abu Dhabi in filmmaker spotlight

Wed Jun 11, 2014 5:13am EDT
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By Maha El Dahan

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Unlike previous installments of the American space saga, the crew of "Star Wars: Episode VII" did not fly to Tunisia last month to start filming. They went to Abu Dhabi.

With many countries in the region facing political turmoil in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings, the woman in charge of the United Arab Emirates's media hub says filming there is seen as a safe option.

"At a time when other regional centers are reducing their activities, Abu Dhabi is picking up and saying it's important to have that kind of funding behind Arab talent," Noura al-Kaabi, chief executive officer of twofour54, the commercial arm of Abu Dhabi's Media Zone Authority, told Reuters.

"It's benefitting Abu Dhabi but also it is helping Arab culture," she added.

In the past year, the capital of the United Arab Emirates has attracted a host of foreign movies including Sony Pictures Entertainment's "Deliver us from Evil", Universal Pictures' "Fast & Furious 7" and the Bollywood feature film "Bang Bang" from Fox Star Studios.

This is despite Abu Dhabi being a newcomer to the industry in a region where Egypt, dubbed the "Hollywood of the Middle East", has more than a century of film-making history and, if not there, foreign producers often chose the deserts of North Africa over the Gulf to shoot movies.

Founded in 2008, the media hub provides a range of services including training, supporting UAE nationals and Arabs in the field and a host of production and post-production facilities.

Twofour54 is also the main force behind the Abu Dhabi Film Commission which is in charge of luring foreign film productions to the capital, the main incentive being a 30 percent rebate. Twofour54 intaj, the media hub's production services company, facilitates work inside the emirate after deals are struck.   Continued...

Syrian actor Taim Hasan speaks on a mobile phone next to Lebanese actress Nadine El Rassi at Abu Dhabi's media hub Twofour54 intaj June 10, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer