Abdulla Al Kaabi – SEPTEMBER 2014

By Kate Hazell

One of the region's youngest up-and-coming film makers, Adbulla Al Kaabi is making waves internationally.

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Emirati film-maker Abdulla Al Kaabi, is due to break onto the scene as his debut film Koshk premiers at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Born and raised in Fujairah, the 28-year-old, has recently returned to the Emirate from Paris with a Masters in Film Making and is inspired by the innovation and hope that Dubai, as a city brings. He takes a break from shooting to share his life, world and where he calls home, with Cherrypick readers.


What are you working on right now?


I'm working on an experiment, a short film that I'm going to shoot very soon. I've been shooting narratives for a very long time so I just want to take myself out of that element and do something unconventional with the camera. Long term I'm working on my first feature film too, but I can't talk about that until it's confirmed. It's still in the script development stage but I can tell you that it's going to be an Arabic film shot in the Middle East and revolving around women, because it's a topic that I love to explore. I also have a film called Koshk, that I shot in Iran a few months ago, premiering at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. It's been selected in both the Emirati Film category and the International Short Film category which is quite an achievement on its own. So I'm really happy to screen that film for the first time.


What made you get into film?


I started off working in TV. I was a presenter on Dubai TV since the age of 17 and I was on a prime time show, but I've always had my eye on the director's chair. Plus I've always been fascinated by film from such a very young age. I knew that TV wasn't satisfying that hunger that I had in me so as soon as I graduated from the American University I moved to Paris and did a Masters in Film Making. Then I shot my first film there which was a huge success and took it from there and here I am. My father inspires me because he's a very hardworking man who's achieved a lot. He's my idol. My aspiration in life is to achieve just one percent of what he's achieved.


Tell us more about the regional film industry?


To be very honest it's still very, very young and I think it needs a lot of government support to get it on its feet. I must say as a film maker I haven't…[pause]. With all the film festivals we have over here, I'm not sure they have really helped the industry. To be honest they've been more about the show and it's not very tangible support for us. What we need is funding and the film festivals aren't really for us, for the local artists.


How does being in this region affect your work?


It's hard to work in film in this region to be honest. There is no funding for us, most of the projects that I've done have been self-funded and if I was working in Europe of somewhere else, there are film institutions that support film makers and that's the hardest part of working here. On the positive side, it's a fresh market and it's a treasure trove for story selling. This region is full of secrets and there are so many stories to explore with film which gives us an edge over the rest of the world. Arabs are great story tellers too.


How does Dubai inspire your work?


Dubai wasn't here 40 years ago. What we've build and achieved over the last 40 years is inspiring to anyone, not just film makers. It just goes to show, you can achieve and you can dream. Dubai is the place for dreamers because dreams do come true here.


What is your biggest ambition?


I'd love to bring back an Oscar and make everyone proud. Whether it is next year, or 10 years or even 20 years away, that’s my dream.


What's the best thing about living here?


All my friends and family are here and I love being close to them. I love living in such a cosmopolitan city with so many nationalities and religions all living together in peace. It's the most beautiful thing about living in Dubai.


How do you like to spend your time when you're in Dubai?


I'm a very private person so I usually spend it with my friends and family. I usually host dinners and private get togethers. If I ever go out it would be in the early morning to do some kind of sport or physical activity. Dubai is a great place for outdoor sports.


Where do you like to shop? Any hidden secrets we should know about?


I love Mahani in Emirates Towers, they have really interesting clothes for men and women and one of the designers is from Fujairah, Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi, where I'm from, so I'm always happy to see her clothes on the racks. Not sure it's a hidden secret but I love it. My favourite restaurant in Dubai is Teatro, in Rotana Towers, it's consistently good. I always try to go there when I'm in Dubai.


What's the last thing you bought here?


I just got the iPhone 6 because it's got a better camera and I shoot a lot of video on my phone so it's a good investment.


Any hidden secrets/places about the city that we might not know?


If I told you it wouldn't be a secret, no?


What's your latest love?


I love art and you could say I'm obsessed with it. I love spending time running around the art galleries in Dubai, the city really has the best galleries in the Middle East for art.