If reports are to be believed, Kanye West will soon be returning to the Middle East for a short film project. News that started circulating on Thursday suggested that the rapper and avid tweeter had sent a team of scouts to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha last month to search for film and financing opportunities, and that he was planning a short, 30-minute film that would "bridge the cultural divide and break misconceptions" about the region.
Speaking to The National, a source working within the film industry in Abu Dhabi confirmed that West's representatives had made the trip and said that his employer had been bidding to work on the film. He was also able to give some new information about the project.
"Kanye's not going to star in it," said the insider, who asked not to be named. "He might make a cameo appearance, but it's going to be real talent, real actors and a film director."
He also confirmed that West was looking to use local faces wherever possible. "They said they'd like to use Emirati actors. It's their goal to use as much local talent and as much local crew as possible when they're here."
While the source didn't want to "ruin everything for Kanye" by revealing the plot, he did confirm the reports that suggested it would play to local traditions and cultures.
"His team said they wanted to create a piece that was very authentic and fits the culture. They said they'd talked to people in Dubai about Mission: Impossible and Tom Cruise hanging out at the Burj Khalifa and that people weren't necessarily proud of that. So they were discussing how they wanted whoever they were working with to help them get the authenticity down so people from around here could appreciate it."
Described as a "30-minute film between a long-form music video and a short film", the new project instantly drew comparisons with Runaway, the 34-minute art-house adventure that West released in 2010 to promote My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
"His team were hesitant to compare it directly to Runaway because the girl in it is dressed quite provocatively," said the source. "But from what they told us, it's going to be in the same vein and in the same format."
Interestingly, it seems West is looking to offload the financing of the project entirely on to the regional partner. "The way they pitched it would be for whichever territory they end up producing it in to completely fund it. And from what I've heard, there's been a lot of interest," said the source, adding that there might be cameo appearances for those who had invested in it.
With filming apparently set for "mid-March" there isn't a great deal of time to choose a territory. "I believe they're looking to start around the 12th, which is what they told us," said the insider. "I would guess they'd have to make a decision soon if they're shooting a month from now."
West has performed both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi before, and it was apparently his gig at the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix in 2010 that spurred his desire to return to the region. "His reps were discussing how he basically fell in love with the area after the F1 show and it became one of his favourite parts of the world."
There has still been no word from West or his camp about the project. His latest hail of tweets - 70 in just three hours a few weeks ago - claimed, among many other things, that he was to be the "creative director" on the forthcoming film The Jetsons, something that was quickly denied by the film's producer.
Whether we ever see an "I'm coming to the Middle East" message remains to be seen. The whole project, if true (although other sources have confirmed that West's representatives visited Dubai and Doha in January), might be kept hush-hush until the film is premiered, which is apparently due to happen in the spring.
West, however, is not usually one to keep tight-lipped about things. (He tweeted throughout the filming of Runaway in Prague.) If and when he lands in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Doha, some way or another, we'll probably know about it. Watch this space.