x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Al Kaabi and Jean Reno: now for the sequel

Abdullah Khalifa Al Kaabi, 24, who directed the French actor in The Philosopher, have come together again to announce a second film.

Jean Reno and Abdullah Khalifa al Kaabi at the Dubai International Film Festival yesterday.
Jean Reno and Abdullah Khalifa al Kaabi at the Dubai International Film Festival yesterday.

DUBAI // The Emirati filmmaker Abdullah Khalifa al Kaabi is teaming up with the French star Jean Reno again.

Al Kaabi, 24, directed the French actor in The Philosopher, a short film that cost Dh1 million and had its world premiere at the 7th Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) last night.

Casting Reno was viewed as a coup for the young filmmaker from Fujairah, and now Reno, a veteran of action movies and romantic comedies from Hollywood to Paris, wants to repeat the experience.

Their next film will be a romantic comedy called Culture Shock and production is to begin next year.

"Culture Shock will be a full length feature film and I am working on the script with a scenarist," al Kaabi said.

The leading lady will be the French actress Virginie Ledoyen, who starred in The Beach, from 2000, which was directed by Danny Boyle and starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

In Culture Shock, Ledoyen will play a French model who follows a wealthy Emirati she met in Paris to the UAE in the hope of reclaiming her fame. She soon finds out he is not as wealthy as she thought.

But yesterday, the focus remained on the debut of The Philosopher. Al Kaabi wrote the screenplay for the 17-minute movie after reading Baggio's Story, a short story by the British author Charlie Fish.

Reno plays Baggio, a successful pianist and footballer who gives up his possessions to contemplate life. He is offered shelter by Leo (played by Cyrille Thouvenin) and the film explores their friendship.

"It is a great honour for me to be part of this festival," al Kaabi said. "The whole idea behind Diff was to give people from the region more opportunities and now I am the person who will be representing young filmmakers like me who have dreams to make something of themselves. It makes me very proud."

For Reno, the experience of being in the UAE was "important".

"Abdullah is honest and talented and the good thing about my job is to have various nationalities sharing the same dream," the actor said. "A friend showed me the script and asked if I wanted to be part of this adventure and - voilá!

"I function with my heart, not with money."

Al Kaabi said that he couldn't believe it when he first heard Reno had agreed to do the project.

"It is a dream. I saw Reno as a superstar in movies and to see such an artist support a young filmmaker is simply poetic.

"For me it was bridging the gap between Emirati and French talents," he said, to which Reno replied: "Shukran".

The Philosopher is to be taken to more than 300 film festivals after its premiere at Diff.

The movie will screen at CineStar in Mall of the Emirates at 7.30pm today and 1pm tomorrow.

* The National