Sea Shadow, directed by Emirati filmmaker Nawaf Al Janahi, will be one of the first films distributed across the Middle East and North Africa as part of a new agreement. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: In a bid to raise awareness about the UAE's fledgling industry, 22 Emirati and other locally produced films will be distributed and screened across the Middle East and North Africa region over the next five years.

The move comes as a result of an agreement reached between production company Imagenation Abu Dhabi, and Empire International, the Lebanon- based exhibitor and distributor that has screened films across the region.

"We have a mission to help the film industry in the UAE because it is still in its early stages," said Michael Garin, chief executive officer of Imagenation.

"It's in a critical period of development. [Emirati] film-makers have the creativity to create any work they want but those close to the customers are the distributors.

"That is why having this partnership with Empire is perfect. We will be able to combine the film-makers' creativity with market input to create a formula for success."


Under the terms of the agreement, Empire will be given rights to distribute Imagenation's local films across the region to countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait, West Bank and Gaza, Sudan, Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria, and Iran, as well as the UAE.

Among the first films to be distributed is Sea Shadow, a coming-of-age story by Emirati director Nawaf Al Janahi, whose other works include The Circle.

Arabian horror thriller Djinn, directed by master of the genre Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist fame, is also high on the list.

"While we have always been keen to work with Imagenation, it will be challenging screening the first two films, especially Sea Shadow, as Emirati films are not well known, whether in the UAE or region," Mario G. Haddad, chief executive officer of Empire International, said. "Also, certain countries such as Egypt tend not to screen other Arab movies.

"Another element we have to take into consideration is the popularity of Western films, especially Hollywood ones."


To raise awareness, Empire will launch various marketing campaigns including internet adverts, Facebook pages, competitions and special screenings.

"Each campaign will be created on a case-by-case basis depending on the film and what is required to encourage theatre-goers to watch it," Haddad said.

"One of the most important elements is word of mouth and instant reviews, such as on Twitter or other movie review websites, which can make or break a film's success.

"Hopefully, as we begin unveiling each campaign and as audiences begin to familiarise themselves with Emirati and other Abu Dhabi-based films, they will provide positive feedback about them that will then lead to their overall screening success."