Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

A film producer who left a wealth of work - and firm friends in the UAE

Remembering Jake Eberts, a film producer of towering cinematic achievement whose character made a permanent imprint on Abu Dhabi.

I was immensely saddened this week to learn of the passing of a close friend to me and many others in Abu Dhabi.

The renowned film producer Jake Eberts passed away after a lengthy illness, but it is testament to his character and outlook that the terminal threat he was facing was something very few were aware of.

Jake's record as a producer and film financer speaks for itself.  Together his films won 37 individual Oscars, including four for Best Picture, leaving an indelible mark on millions of people in cinemas around the world.

He was involved with some of the most successful films of all time, including "Chariots of Fire", "Gandhi", "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Dances With Wolves".  In recent years Jake turned his attention to making IMAX films and documentaries such as  "March of the Penguins", "Oceans" and "Journey to Mecca", consistently producing material that engaged your mind and touched your heart.

However, to those of us who knew him in Abu Dhabi, his professional record paled into insignificance when you were presented with the man himself.  He had an ability to put people at ease and simultaneously empower them.

Whoever you were in Jake's day, you knew you were in the presence of one of the great advocates for life itself. When I met Jake he was in his mid-sixties, but he always had the energy of someone forty years his junior.  It is a fact that adds to the sense of the untimeliness of his passing.

Jake's death leaves many mourners in our Emirate.  It is a mark of his generosity of spirit.  On their behalf it is important to express gratitude for what he gave and regret that there was not more time for all of us to benefit more from Jake's immense talents.

Jake once told me that he had visited Abu Dhabi briefly some four decades ago.  However, his second and most significant visit came in 2007, when the Emirate was being considered as an additional location for a Sundance film festival.  It was the beginning of a very special journey for both Jake and Abu Dhabi that has been cut altogether too short.

During this visit Jake had requested a tour of Abu Dhabi so he could get a good understanding of our Emirate and the UAE.  If we thought he was just being polite, Jake soon put that thought to rest.  His tour soon became a relentless visit of sites from Liwa to Sir Bani Yas, from Abu Dhabi's Falcon Hospital to the then nascent Formula One construction site, abated only by the setting of the sun.

This, I was to later learn, was classic Jake.  He immersed himself in subjects for the reward of the enriching experience.

Formula One became a new avenue for his enthusiasm from the first time he saw the Yas Marina Circuit construction site.  He was welcomed as a guest at our first three Grands Prix and I had the honor of experiencing his home Grand Prix with him in Montreal in 2009.  He was a proud Canadian and global citizen. Not for the first time in Jake's company did I find myself ignoring my planned schedule. Time with him was simply too enjoyable.

This year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will not be the same without him. Neither will the new season of football that is upon us.  I had the pleasure to introduce Jake to the sport by taking him in 2010 to see his first game at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium. I sense that he had found the beginnings of a new passion.

In the five years that Jake's relationship with Abu Dhabi evolved, he helped to make much happen.  The National Geographic Arabia Channel, Abu Dhabi's film investment fund "Imagenation" and its highly successful partnership with Participant films, all have the benefit of Jake's guidance and counsel, with the latter producing the films "Contagion" and "The Help".

In 2009 his incredible documentary "Journey to Mecca" debuted in Abu Dhabi at a specially built outdoor IMAX theatre created for the purpose. The film touched everybody who saw it.  Jake's films were like Jake himself, a source of insight and refreshing human perspectives.

Thanks to Jake the skills of his son David were important ingredients in the creation of two documentaries about the UAE's military.  "Desert Falcons" (2010) and "Winds of Goodness" (2011) were directed by David Eberts and they carry the quality and humanity of the Eberts' touch.

On reflection, Jake was a man perfectly suited to our Majilis culture and its values.  He was his own man and someone who had a firm grip on his moral compass.  He was a great listener and a great teacher.  He seemed to view every meeting as an opportunity to garner and share knowledge.

My hope is that he was as enriched and rewarded as much by Abu Dhabi as Abu Dhabi was by him.  Our gratitude and thoughts go to his wife Fiona and his children Alex, David and Lindsay.

To all those who knew him Jake Eberts leaves a legacy of optimism and enthusiasm for life.  It is the same legacy that his films will provide for those who did not have the good fortune and privilege to know him.

Good-bye my friend.  I like all who knew you will never forget you.


Khaldoon Al Mubarak is chief executive and managing director of Mubadala Development

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Marina Square apartments Reem Island: Q1 2% rise. Studio - Dh65-68,000. 1BR - Dh75-95,000. 2BR - Dh110-145,000. 3BR - Dh170-190,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 no change. Sammy Dallal / The National

In pictures: Where Abu Dhabi rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Abu Dhabi have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 A model of the plans for Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District, which was on display at the Global Cityscape exhibition at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre last year. Ali Haider / EPA

Building the future on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island

Nick Leech meets Jassim Al Hammadi, the engineer charged with providing the services that will make the Saadiyat Cultural District tick.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 From left: Alex Ritman, his favorite waiter and friend Andy Tillett at Baithal Ravi in 2009. Courtesy Alex Ritman

Lamenting Bur Dubai’s Baithal Ravi Restaurant

When I heard that a fire had ripped through the restaurant known as Ravis in the Bur Dubai district of Dubai, my outburst was met with echoed monosyllabic despair among numerous friends on social media.

 Screen shot from Vin Deisel's facebook page of he and Michelle Rodriguez in Abu Dhabi for the filming of Fast & Furious 7. April 2014

Fast & Furious in Abu Dhabi, a social media frenzy

Fast & Furious 7 wraps up an eventful and much-anticipated week of filming in the capital. Let's take a look at what went on via the key players' social media, while they were enjoying the delights of the desert.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National