UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi fast becoming the global hub of choice for new filmmakers

A true home grown industry is emerging made up of new filmmakers who now call Abu Dhabi home.

“The city of Abu Dhabi made my dream come true for me.” says Faraz Waqar

“I have studied filmmaking in Abu Dhabi, all my films have been written, directed, shot and completed in Abu Dhabi. The cast and crew for all my films some of which have been screened at prestigious international film festivals such as Cannes, are all from Abu Dhabi….Its the city that made my filmmaking dream come true.” says Faraz Waqar – the first Pakistani film Director to have ever made a silent film. Faraz is one of the growing breed of new young filmmakers who are choosing to make Abu Dhabi their new home and a base for their international filmmaking projects. 

Abu Dhabi is fast establishing itself as a center of media production and a destination for filmmakers from around the world. Filming on “Fast & Furious 7” recently wrapped up in Abu Dhabi. The American soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” also filmed in the Emirati capital this year, as did Bollywood big budget feature “Bang Bang” starring Bollywood super stars the likes of Katrina Kaif and Hrithik Roshan. Currently it is rumoured that more than 600 international and regional crew as well as the lead and supporting cast members are in the Emirates for the latest “Star Wars” movie shoot.

All this hype and news of these big international film projects is attracting new filmmakers to settle down in the city from across the globe. In the long term it is this fresh new blood that is required as the seed that will one day turn this new field of filmmaking in the UAE lush green. A true home grown industry is gradually emerging made up of new filmmakers who call Abu Dhabi home, no longer reliant just on big budget foreign projects. 

“The great thing about Abu Dhabi is not just that its become a destination of choice for international big budget film projects from Hollywood and Bollywood”.. says the new Abu Dhabi based filmmaker, Faraz Waqar…”This city uniquely provides the right environment for new filmmakers to learn the art of filmmaking, grow in the industry and make unique films.”

Faraz Waqar chose Abu Dhabi in 2011-12 as his permanent home base when he decided to become a filmmaker. ‘It was the only logical choice as a city.’ says the new filmmaker. “Not only was Abu Dhabi fast emerging on the global media scene due to international film projects and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival,  but it also offered training facilities to new filmmakers such as the only permanent campus of the world famous New York Film Academy outside the United States.’ The New York Film Academy opened its doors in Abu Dhabi at the invitation of the Abu Dhabi Authority of Culture and Heritage (ADACH) in 2007 and its then Director General, H.E. Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, who is now the Chairman of the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee. The aim was to establish Abu Dhabi as a center for film and television in the Middle East.

Faraz completed the one year filmmaking program at the academy’s Abu Dhabi campus and his 1 Year thesis film, ‘9:11 am’ was selected and showcased at the Cannes Film Festival the same year (2012) as an entry from the UAE. ‘‘I was very proud to have my work showcased at Cannes. The city of Abu Dhabi made my dream come true for me.” says Faraz.

“The encouragement I received from the city, from its environment and its authorities was unbelievable.” says Faraz Waqar. “There are facilities such as the Creative Lab at twofour54 which not only offer new filmmakers free space to plan out pre-production but even offers free post-production facilities to complete your film project such as state of the art editing and sound labs. Which other city or country offers this kind of an advantage to new filmmakers just starting out on their journey?”

Faraz Waqar chose to stay on in Abu Dhabi after his film studies and made the city his base for his international film projects. His recent projects include a music video titled ‘Imagineer’ entirely shot and completed in Abu Dhabi with cast and crew who are all native to the city – representing a mix of nationalities Emirati, European, Indian and Middle Eastern all of whom call Abu Dhabi their home.  The music video was dedicated to the sub-continent’s legendary singer Nazia Hassan.

Faraz’s latest project is a silent film ‘Peko the Cat & World War 3’ shot and completed in Abu Dhabi with the young Emirati actor Ibrahim Al Kheimeiri playing the lead. The film’s cast and crew reflect the diverse nationalities that call Abu Dhabi home – Americans, Europeans, Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, Autsralians and Iranians. The film has already been screened at two film festivals abroad and is expected to screen at more film festivals in the UK and Canada in the very near future.  

“My plan is now to venture more boldy into a feature length project with the script set in Abu Dhabi.” says Faraz “The city now has an increasing pool of acting talent and the permanent presence of professional filmmaking crew members plus crowdfunding initiatives like Aflamnah – that help independent filmmakers to raise funds for their projects.”

“I now want to make my dream of completing my feature length film project in the same city where I learn’t the art of filmmaking. Abu Dhabi made my dream come true. I feel I owe it to this city to launch my career as a feature length film Director in Abu Dhabi.” says Faraz Waqar.    

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