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Industry Report: Focus: Asia & Oceania

Arab filmmakers resort to product placement to fund movies


- Arab filmmakers are being forced to fund their films through paid-for product plugs rather than independent capital, blurring the lines between content and advertising, a local filmmaker has told Arabian Business. By Claire Ferris-Lay

UAE-based Mahmoud Kaabour, the director behind Teta, Alf Marra (Grandma, A Thousand Times), said a lack of funding for local talent means filmmakers must resort to product advertising to subsidise their work.

“Right now in the Middle East it’s a wonderful place to show a film you’ve made but to make that film you’re really on your own, which seems a little bit off balance to me,” he said.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Referring to the nationwide screening of City of Life - the first feature film to be produced and set in Dubai by Ali F Mostafa – he said: “Even Ali would tell you that the way he’s funded his film was very corporate-motivated. It included a lot of product placement and film is much higher than that. I don’t think we need to be selling product to make films.”

The Gulf has launched a string of film festivals in recent years. Dubai led the pack with the 2004 launch of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), and both Abu Dhabi and Qatar now play host to annual film summits.

The festivals have been accompanied by a surge in funding. At the Abu Dhabi festival, ‘Black Pearl’ awards offer a total of $1m in funding to filmmakers. Last year, the event announced the launch of the ‘Sanad’ fund, which pays subsidies ranging from $20,000 to $60,0000 to local film talent.

In Qatar, media group Alnoor Holdings in 2009 launched a $200m fund to finance and produce feature films.

Despite an apparent increase in funding, Arab filmmakers are still being forced to trade advertising for funding, said Kaabour.

“It’s too easy to expect money to be thrown at us to make movies but it wouldn’t be entirely bad if the process was just a little bit easier so we can focus on the filmmaking rather than wearing a tie and a fancy shirt and knocking on doors and trying to explain to people why they should be supporting culture.”

Kaabour, whose film Teta, Alf Marra was part-funded by the Doha Film Institute and the Screen Institute Beirut, will debut at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in November.


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