As a science fiction filmmaker, S.A. Zaidi has always dreamed of creating a scene involving a massive alien spaceship hovering over the Dubai skyline.
“You keep seeing it in Hollywood films. That scene of the spaceship over New York or Los Angeles or London. People are bored of it,” says Zaidi. “I have always wanted to give people a new visual perspective, a new iconic image.”
This weekend, the 32-year-old will walk the talk when his first feature film, Aerials, opens at Vox Cinemas across the Emirates. Set and shot in Dubai, the sci-fi horror movie will be the first UAE-produced science fiction feature film when it releases. And there are plenty of spaceships flying over Dubai.
Aerials follows a couple who wake up one day to find that aliens have shut down the city of Dubai. Power is cut off and cars stop working. As the city is thrown into chaos, the couple, stuck at home, confront the new reality around them.
“It’s not an alien invasion story,” clarifies Zaidi who co-wrote the story with his Emirati producer Ganem Ghubash. “The aliens don’t attack or destroy the city. Their presence just brings about massive changes.”
Zaidi took almost three years to make the film, the delay mostly due to budget constraints. Ghubash and he funded the low-budget film under their banner Fat Brothers Films.
“Most of the money went to food,” laughs Zaidi who adds that a lot of people involved with the film, including the actors, agreed to work for little pay. “People have been so good and supportive of the project and it’s only because of them that this has taken shape.”
The film’s soundtrack is a collaborative effort of many UAE bands and musicians, says Zaidi who wrote the music. Well-known Emirati actor Mansour Al Feeli stars in a supporting role, and is among six main characters in the film.
While the 90-minute film is special effects driven, Zaidi says they also shot on location at JLT, Shaikh Zayed Road and the DIFC area, with permits facilitated by the Dubai Film and TV Commission (DFTC).
“We used Red Dragon cameras. The same kind that were used in the Hobbit films. And Leica Summilux-C lenses, which were used in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I also used a lot of my own personal equipment to help bring down the cost,” he says.
The UAE-born Zaidi, who is originally from Pakistan, made his film debut with the short The Sons of two Suns released in 2013. The film, set in a post-apocalyptic Dubai, told the story of three survivors who are determined to stay alive.
“There are so many stories to be told from this part of the world. And the science fiction genre is so new there’s a lot of things to be explored,” he says.
Theatre chain Vox Cinemas have agreed to exclusively screen the film.
“They have been so supportive of small films and directors, which is really encouraging,” says Zaidi.
He says he was determined to get the film out before the release of Independence Day: Resurgence, the sequel to the hit 1996 disaster film starring Liam Hemsworth and Jeff Goldblum. The film releases in the UAE on July 5.
“I love Roland Emmerich, the director. He’s one of my biggest influences. And we can never compare to that,” says Zaidi, laughing. “I know there are scenes showing the Burj Khalifa being destroyed and all. But we’ve also got spaceships flying over the UAE. You’ve never seen that before.”
Don’t miss it
Aerials will screen at Vox Cinemas in Mall of the Emirates Dubai, Fujairah City Centre and Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi