Guadalajara: The challenges facing the UAE and Mexican cinema and the impact of technology and digital platforms like Netflix were put under the spotlight during a panel discussion organised by Sharjah at the ongoing 36th edition of the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico.
During the session titled ‘Keeping up with the Current Cinematic Situation in the UAE and Mexico’, Emirati filmmaker Nasser Al Dhahiri said the challenges facing UAE cinema “are similar to those faced worldwide when it comes to independent cinema, which is essentially lacking proper funding.”
He noted that 90 per cent of films shown in the UAE are American, while the rest are divided between Arabic titles and other films in English.
‘A Tale of Water, Palm Trees and Family’
Al Dhahiri also discussed his journey making his debut film, ‘A Tale of Water, Palm Trees and Family’.
He said the idea began with a question about the roots of the UAE, noting that he went on a lengthy process accompanied by filmmakers from The Netherlands to find the origins of Emiratis that date back thousands of years. According to Al Dhahiri, there is a close relationship between travellers who passed through the UAE bearing water and palm trees, which he documented through pictures and stories passed down through the generations.
Commenting on the advancement of technology, he said: “In the old days, film production was very expensive, and errors were costly, this was in addition to the costs related to building filming sets. With digital cameras and computer-generated imagery, this helped lower the costs in production, a good early example of this was the film ‘Titanic’, which used these tools to make their project viable. Even though it was not obvious to the audience, the captivating and expansive scenes it had, were surprisingly shot in a small pool.”
US film dominance
In the same forum, Mexican filmmaker Samuel Kishi talked about the troubles he had faced in the film industry. He recalled the story of one of the films he had worked on. He said the film was selected for the Berlin Film Festival, however, all screens were booked, and there was no opportunity for him to screen his film due to the number of commercial films being screened.
In reference to Al Dhahiri’s comment about the imbalance of films screened in his country, Samuel said American films dominate Mexican cinemas, noting that independent foreign films account for only 1 per cent, local films account for only 6 per cent, and 93 percent were taken up by American movies, which according to him, makes screening independent films very challenging.