Mostafa breathes 'Life' into Dubai biz

Project is the UAE's first major feature film

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DUBAI -- Marking a landmark moment in the development of the fledgling Dubai film industry, a delegation of top industry players hit the Dubai International Film Festival on Sunday to talk up production of the emirates' first major feature film.

Ali F. Mostafa's multilingual "City of Life" is the first film to be written, directed and produced by an Emirati for an international audience.

True to the multicultural landscape of Dubai, the film -- which is being financed by the United Arab Emirates -- revolves around the lives of three people from very different backgrounds who each call Dubai home.

The central characters are a privileged Emirati man, a disillusioned Indian taxi driver and a Western woman whose lives are about to collide for better or worse. The film is aiming for a global release and is in talks to secure a distribution partner in the U.S. The budget was not disclosed.

Speaking to the difficulty of launching a film industry in a city best known for its real-estate ventures, Mostafa said that the process of putting "City" together had been, "quite a journey."

A UAE national, Mostafa studied at the London Film School and won an award for Best Emirati Filmmaker at the festival in 2007. Echoing his sentiments, the film's producer, Tim Smythe of Filmworks, said the struggle of raising the financing involved "bloodied knuckles."

"We had to knock on so many doors," he said. "People here are not yet used to the idea of investing in film. But it is all part of the process of creating a system so that it is easier for filmmakers here going forward to make films."

Financing for the film was eventually secured through the DIFC Lifestyle Group with the backing of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and its founding sponsors, the Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Aiports, Dubai Duty Free and Nakheel PJSC The World.

"Films have been made in Dubai before but none that were set to compete on a global level and based on a studio structure for making a film," Smythe said.

Panelists said that ,in order for the industry to grow, it needs support from the government. "The process involves making the government aware of what it takes to build an industry from film incentives down," Smythe said.

Several international producers this week have pointed to the lack of location incentives in Dubai as a missing part of the equation of building a film industry here.

"It is something they need to start doing," said Susanne Bohnet of Serafini Releasing, which is setting up offices in the UAE and Los Angeles. "It is very important to help films get made here and to attract international shoots."

Several high-profile Hollywood feature films have shot in Dubai, including Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana" and Peter Berg's "The Kingdom."
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