x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

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