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Film Industry

Attractive incentives for producers and a budding breed of local film industry talent has put Abu Dhabi on the radar of many filmmakers from around the world, and is adding to the UAE's growing film scene.

In the world of the movies, leading festivals from around the world from Cannes to Cairo have been major events on the calendars of film industry professionals and movie enthusiasts for years. The UAE’s film industry, although budding, is growing with Abu Dhabi playing a key part. The New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi opened in 2007, and that same year the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) grabbed a slice of the limelight in the world of cinema when the capital played host to its first film festival, dubbed the Middle East International Festival at the time. Supported by Abu Dhabi’s twofour54, films from the UAE, Middle East, and around the world were screened at the ADFF 2014, a 10-day long event that witnessed several Arab produced film premieres. One symbol of how Abu Dhabi’s film industry has developed since then, the ADFF 2014 began with a showcase of From A to B, a film 100% produced and funded by twofour54 and ImageNation, well-known media organizations in Abu Dhabi that support and encourage the creation of local content. It was the first time ever that an Emirati film opened the event, and with the developing media infrastructure and growing film culture, Abu Dhabi hopes it will not be the last. A notable aspect of Abu Dhabi’s filmmaking scene are the several incentives offered in the Emirate, aimed at attracting film producers to the city and supporting the local filmmaking industry. When discussing factors that attract producers to Abu Dhabi, CEO of twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s media and creative hub, Noura Al Kaabi explains that “producers look at which countries in the world offer the best rebates and incentives. In addition to finding the right location, they are keen to find the most efficient way to spend their money.” Though it is not just about cost and location, as Al Kaabi further emphasized, “…our location in Abu Dhabi can be found elsewhere. It is what comes with it, the services and the team, that makes the difference.” There is an increasing amount of support for film producers in the UAE’s capital city, where even a 30% cash rebate on production costs is offered to international filmmakers by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, the highest rebate of its kind in the MENA region. Incentives like these help to keep Abu Dhabi competitive in the global film market.

Though the film industry in the UAE is expanding, it has yet to reach full maturation. Still lacking are proper distribution channels, such as those that exist in other developed entertainment industries. The Netflix or Hulu models, for example, are missing in the Emirates. Additionally, while there are educational opportunities to study film in the UAE, employment opportunities available tend to favor TV and commercial production. In the world of film education, many Emiratis travel abroad to study filmmaking, and seek to make a name for themselves elsewhere. What is needed is not just for more films to be shot in Abu Dhabi, however, but for more Emirati actors to take on more leading roles, and for more films to be written, directed, and produced by Emiratis. In the meantime, seeds of a vibrant and thriving local film industry can be found in Abu Dhabi.