Abdulla Al Kaabi
Abdulla Al Kaabi has achieved a lot for the UAE film industry already and his ambition shows no sign of stopping
Although he has spent much of his young life living and working in some of Europe’s most magnificent, historic cities, it is back home in the majestic mountains of Fujairah that Abdulla Al Kaabi has chosen to set his first feature film.
The 26-year-old filmmaker, who shot to critical acclaim in 2011 with his 20-minute short film The Philosopher (made in 2010) that starred Jean Reno and made its debut at Cannes, says he has always taken great inspiration from his homeland.
‘I used to see the mountains in Fujairah every morning when I was growing up and they still inspire me more than any other place in the world,’ he says. ‘A feature film for me is something that concerns my soul so of course I had to set it in my home.’
The film, that is about to move into production, is being made under the working title Girls in The Know (Banat Fahma) and is about family life in the UAE.
Family and community is very important to Al Kaabi, who has a studio and a production company El Booma Films in Dubai, a home in Fujairah and a place in Paris that he uses on his trips to Europe.
The more people watch films, the more they are able to enter the mindset of the people
In fact, he says, if he ever had to leave his home in the UAE forever, he couldn’t do it without taking his family with him.
‘Of course I love my family,’ he smiles, ‘and it is important to me to represent the community I am from in whatever I do. Whenever I am working as a filmmaker outside the country, I will always be presented as a filmmaker from the UAE and I am very aware of that. I think nothing more than a film from Dubai and the UAE can really represent what life is like here.’
For the production of his film, Al Kaabi has a grand aim for casting, and is hoping to cast ‘a village’ worth of people. Describing the huge team as a cross section of nationalities and cultures, he says that the combined influence of all these people can’t help but infiltrate the flavour and colour of the film.
‘A film is a visual story and the more people watch films, the more they are able to enter the mindset of a people, the story that goes behind it, its culture and the way it works,’ he continues.
Although Al Kaabi says people are more and more aware of the UAE and its true culture, he does admit that in Europe there is still an opinion that people in his home country are ‘filthy rich, that nobody works for money and that all we have is oil.’ He hopes to be part of the movement to change this, he says.
‘Five years ago people would think Dubai was a country and that it was a cultural wasteland but now it is becoming more well-known and finding its place on the map. I think films are really helping to change that and I am proud and honoured to be part of that movement.’
‘Hopefully one day, when it is a hub for international cinema making, I will be remembered as one of the pioneers of the UAE film industry and I will even get a nomination for best foreign film at the Academy Awards. We have all the infrastructure and all the resources but as yet we haven’t had time for it to become established. I have no doubt that as the years go by, we are going to get there and I will look back and be proud.’