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twofour54 has collaborated with Nayla Al Khaja, the acclaimed UAE filmmaker, in bringing her latest venture 'Malal' to life. The first Emirati Indian film to win Muhr Emirati First Price award at the Closing Night Muhr Awards Ceremony.
Screened at the recently concluded edition of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF 2010), Malalwas part of a strong showing from the local creative contingent. Amidst a varied selection of talent, Al Khaja obviously made the most indelible impression.
Her film picked up 'Best Picture' in the newly introduced Muhr Emirati category. It beat out 24 other feature films, short films and documentaries, confirming the director's rapidly ascending star.
Al Khaja’s stature as one of the region’s most prominent independent filmmakers has been strongly cemented by her latest venture and its ensuing success.
Battling cultural norms, gender perceptions and societal expectations, the young director’s journey thus far has been one of inspiration and dedication. She has slowly been acquiring a name for herself beyond the region too, with provocative offerings such as the child abuse-themed ‘Arabana’ showcasing her strength for nuance and expert pacing.
twofour54 provided support to the director through its world-class production facilities, also providing funding for three UAE National filmmakers to accompany Al Khaja for the duration of the shoot, where they received hands-on training in the art of filmmaking.
twofour54 is at the heart of harnessing the region’s immense creative potential, driving Abu Dhabi’s development as a centre of excellence in world-class Arabic entertainment and building a sustainable Arabic media industry in the Emirate. The collaboration with Al Khaja was clearly an appropriate fit: “We jumped at the opportunity to work with Nayla on this project and have already started looking at establishing a long-term relationship,” says Wayne Borg, Chief Operating Officer at twofour54.
Al Khaja was equally stimulated by the partnership, saying: I have followed the development of twofour54 with considerable interest since its launch. This was an opportunity to work with them on a project that is dear to my heart, while at the same time helping pass on my industry knowledge to the next generation of UAE National filmmakers. I hope to work closely with twofour54 to contribute to the UAE’s growing media industry.
A graduate of the Dubai Women's College with a Bachelor in Image studies – Filmmaking from Ryerson University, Canada, Al Khaja is at the vanguard of a home grown film movement that’s proudly Arab yet decidedly worldly in its techniques and viewpoints.
I hope to work closely with twofour54 to contribute to the UAE’s growing media industry.
With Malal, the first Emirati production to be set in the verdant Indian state of Kerala, she casts her directorial focus on a seemingly simple premise - a young Emirati couple on their honeymoon. Through circumstances and interactions, we’re brought deeper into their arranged-marriage world and given a frank glimpse of the trials and tribulations that daily life brings for a modern-day Emirati couple.
The filmmaker counts Tim Burton and Stanley Kubrick among her favourite directors and further cites Meryl Streep as one of the actors she would most like to work with. Indian, Russian and old classics have clearly coloured her views on film to a large extent.
Aside from her burgeoning film career, she’s also the founder of D-Seven Motion Pictures, a production company focussing on commercials, independent documentaries and films.
Nayla Al Khaja’s ambitions are reflective of the mood surging through young Arabia, a mood that twofour54 is only too keen to tap into and foster.
If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, or have an idea that you believe deserves to be translated to the screen, creative lab can help. Take a look at some of our projects, and read stories about Ghafet Osha, Jirfah and others on how we’ve helped turn concepts into finished productions. Take some time to flesh out your idea and in the meantime connect with filmmakers, producers, directors and creative individuals within the community, who can offer valuable feedback and advice. The creative lab team is committed to funding and developing ideas that can enrich community discourse and present a diversity of views. Get in touch and see if your idea makes the cut.