Emirati horror movies explore region’s fascination with the supernatural

Tariq Al-Kazim is working on the film "A Tale of Shadows: Illusions". (Supplied photo)
Updated 23 October 2019

Emirati horror movies explore region’s fascination with the supernatural

  • Horror films are fast emerging as a notable genre within the UAE's film industry
  • Horror films need neither big budgets nor marquee names to be effective

DUBAI: Whether it’s an audience need for escapism or a way to explore danger safely, horror films are fast emerging as a notable genre within the fledgeling Emirati film industry.

Several recent films have braved cinematic elements in recent years. Tobe Hooper’s “Djinn,” produced by Abu Dhabi production house Image Nation, broke the mold in 2013, and set new records as it explored the region’s fascination with the supernatural.

Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al-Khaja has recently finished “The Shadow,” a teaser for an extended feature believed to be based on actual events.

UAE-based Lebanese producer-director Rami Yasin is working on a vampire family drama, “Three Four Eternity,” for Image Nation.

Meanwhile, director Tariq Al-Kazim has begun pre-production on a sequel to 2017’s “A Tale of Shadows,” an English-language film about a gardener who is deeply disturbed by his experiences at a farm where he works.

The latest installment, “A Tale of Shadows: Illusions,” follows the story of a young girl who appears in a hospital, her body mysteriously drenched in blood. A local detective teams up with a journalist to investigate, and the pair land up at an eerie farm, where they find themselves enveloped in a world of illusion, chaos and madness.





The film is brought to life by an international cast, including Nigerian actor Chuka Ekweogwu, German actress Arzu Neuwirth and Swedish actor Almer Agmyren.

Emirati artist Samar Al-Shamsi, better known for the “Arab Mona Lisa” painting, also makes her screen debut in the film. 

Al-Kazim told Arab News that the film could reach cinemas early next year.

The filmmaker believes that horror movies allow him to reach audiences beyond his home country without breaking the bank.

“Horror is an interesting topic because regardless of where a person is from, when a movie is scary, it engenders fear,” Al-Kazim said.

The 26-year-old Emirati has been drawn to the genre since he was a child and has created a name for himself among regional horror fans.

Last year he released “Until Midnight,” which told the story of a newly married young man who encounters a stranger with evil intentions.

Horror films need neither big budgets or marquee names to be effective. “The Blair Witch Project,” for example, made $248 million on a budget of $60,000.

While this allows rookie filmmakers room to experiment, shoestring budgets cut both ways.




Romanian actor Robert Cristian Trif. (Supplied)

“It’s actually tough to make a horror film. You need to be able to do it correctly without any mistakes, even in the split second of a frame,” Al-Kazim said.

“But that’s a challenge I like and one of the reasons I choose to make horror films.”

Although “A Tale of Shadows” was initially planned as a trilogy, positive response to the first instalment, which premiered in Dubai and played across the UAE, brought Al-Kazim back to the story.

The UAE film industry needs more incentives to make an impact internationally, he said, but Emirati filmmakers can reach broader audiences by tackling universal themes.

“I think we’re on the right track. However, more movies need to be developed. Without an increase in the number of movies, there will be fewer celebrities, a smaller market, fewer stories and less interest, so it all starts with having a big push to really build this industry,” he said.

“There are several ways to achieve a broader range of audiences, but it’s all about the story. It needs to be universally relatable.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. 

 

 


Disney tops earnings estimates ahead of streaming launch

Updated 10 November 2019

Disney tops earnings estimates ahead of streaming launch

  • Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operation
  • Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox
SAN FRANCISCO: Walt Disney on Thursday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by the release of blockbuster films “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as it prepared for its new streaming television service.
Disney profit in the recently ended quarter was $1.05 billion, down from $2.3 billion a year ago, on revenue that grew 34 percent to $19.1 billion.
The slump in profits came as Disney absorbed key film and television operations of 21st Century Fox and geared up for its launch of the streaming service Disney+ that aims to compete globally against Netflix and others.
“We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience,” said Disney chief executive Robert Iger.
“We’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”
Iger said the company reached a deal for the service to be on Amazon’s Fire TV platform, the latest distribution agreement for Disney+.
Disney shares were up more than five percent in after-market trading following release of the earnings figures.
Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operations with box office hits “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” fueling gains.
The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be boosted by the forthcoming release of a sequel to “Frozen” and the final installment of the “Star Wars” film saga.
It will thereafter take a “hiatus” from “Star Wars” box office films but has an array of spin-off shows planned exclusively for its streaming service.
Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
However, integrating Fox into Disney has cost more than expected and the newly added studios have brought in less money than hoped.
Disney saw smaller revenue gains in its cable and broadcasting operations as well as its theme park division.
Iger would not disclose details of pre-sales of Disney+ subscriptions, but said the price — $6.99 monthly — has met with “great enthusiasm” by consumers.
The Disney+ online streaming service will debut in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands before gradually expanding internationally in Europe then rolling out worldwide.
Its films and TV shows will be available, along with the library it acquired from 21st Century Fox. That includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero franchises and ABC television content.
Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar, with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.
Apple last week launched a streaming television service that features a budding library of original shows starring big-name celebrities, aimed at winning over its gadget lovers at home and on the go.
The Apple TV+ on-demand streaming service launched in more than 100 countries at $4.99 per month.
Original Apple TV+ shows have so far been met with lukewarm early reviews, but the low subscription price and an offer of year-long memberships free with purchase of the company’s devices was expected to encourage viewers to tune in.
Netflix, meanwhile, has budgeted $15 billion this year for original shows, on top of the billions it has devoted to exclusive productions in recent years.
Amazon, which has deep pockets thanks to its e-commerce and cloud services, has also poured cash into original shows for its Prime Video service.
This sets up a potential spending war among the major streaming players, according to analysts.
Even more competition looms on the horizon, with AT&T’s Warner Media to launch its “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”
NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also launching next year.