Movies and movie -making have rarely achieved such a high profile across the whole breadth of the Middle East. For the first time ever this surge in interest has spawned a plethora of new film festivals of various sizes and stature.
Leading this movement are a number of dynamic and passionate people, including Sheikha Al Zain Al Sabah. A producer of films including the award-winning ‘Amreeka’ and ‘Journey To Mecca’, hers is one of a growing number of voices who are determined to establish the Middle East, and in her case specifically Kuwait, firmly on the global movie-making map.
For Sheikha Al Zain the rapid growth in the number of regional film festivals is perhaps the most visible evidence of the strength of the film business in the region. “They really to do reflect the higher level of interest in film-making, and each new festival gives an opportunity for a new audience to see films they might never otherwise see, as well as giving regional film-makers the chance to get together and learn from as well as support one another”.
She’s passionate about establishing Kuwait at the heart of the region’s film-making industry, but is realistic enough to recognize that, whilst Kuwait certainly has the talent to succeed, it doesn’t have the infrastructure or facilities. “Not yet, anyway”, says Al Zain.
So, what’s to be done?
Al Zain, through her company - Eagle Vision Media Group KSCC (EVMG) - is nearing the stage of completion for a brand new state-of-the-art TV and film production studio. Scheduled to open during 2011 this complex will offer thus-far unrivalled facilities to the region’s TV/film production companies.
Although this new development will raise Kuwait’s status within the region, Al Zain recognizes that this, on its own, is not enough. “It’s time for us to build an industry. We need to come together and to see that together we can do great things”, she says.
Whereas what currently exists of Kuwait’s film-making industry is a relatively piecemeal affair with many talented artists working away in relative isolation from other local talents, Al Zain - and others - seek to capitalize on the skill and dynamic talents and ensure their support and co-ordination through a newly launched venture ‘for visual storytellers’ she’s very appropriately called ‘Adasa’ - the Arabic word for ‘Lens’. “I also like to think it stands for Artists Demanding A Storytelling Association,” she quips.
“We’re asking local authorities, from both the private and public sectors, to see the importance to our nation of having a strong film-making industry”, Al Zain explains. “We’re asking Kuwait to see how work funded and produced here can travel the world and is a fine way to share ourselves and our culture with our neighbors and those further afield”. She adds, “one can never underestimate the power of the moving image. That is exactly why governments in neighboring countries have created globally sanctioned film festivals, and have made those festivals a formative part of their larger advancement plans.”
Sheikha al Zain’s passion is unquestionable, and her powers of persuasion will open many doors as she seeks support from local businesses and individuals for the establishment and funding of ‘Adasa’.
It appears the overture is drawing to a close, and the curtains really are about to go up on a fresh and vibrant film-making industry in Kuwait.
Upcoming regional film festivals
6 - 13 Beirut International Film Festival - beirutfilmfoundation.org
14 - 23 Middle East International Film Festival - meiff.com
21 - 28 Mumbai Film Festival - mumbaifilmfest.com
26 - 30 Doha Tribeca Film Festival - dohafilminstitute.com
2 - 4 The Green Caravan Film Festival - Kuwait thegreencaravan.com
4 - 7 Alexandria Film Festival - alexandriafilm.org
7 - 13 Damascus Film Festival - damascusfest.com
16 - 20 Jordan Short Film Festival - jordanfilmfestival.com
23 The Green Caravan Film Festival - Dubai thegreencaravan.com
12 - 19 Dubai Film Festival - dubaifilmfest.com
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #25 October 2010