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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

A look inside twofour54’s Kizad backlot

We take a tour of the Middle East’s biggest backlot, right here in Abu Dhabi

Emirati/Morroccan actress Mayssa Maghrebi is making her directorial debut and stars in Wojooh Moharama. The movie is shooting on twofour54’s Kizad backlot, the location made famous by the Salman Khan film Tiger Zindi Hai.

Wojooh Moharama focuses on three generations of people in Riyadh, starting in the 1970s and moving to the present day, and stars a cast from around the region, including Saudi actors.

The movie’s crew includes more than 60 professionals, and twofour54 will be providing production and post-production services, as well as the use of the 70,000-square-metre backlot, which is the biggest facility in the Middle East.

The film is the latest in a long line of productions to choose Abu Dhabi for location shooting, and joins a list including Universal’s Furious 7, Disney’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Yash Raj Films’ Tiger Zinda Hai, and Paramount Pictures’ recent Mission: Impossible – Fallout, as well as 20 Arabic dramas which have been shot in the emirate since 2013.

Maghrebi, who produced one of the earliest feature-length movies to emerge from the Gulf, 2005’s Tarab Fashion, is also well-known for her role in the television drama Samarqand. She said: “We’re delighted to be making this film in Abu Dhabi. The support we’ve received from the team at twofour54 was integral to the decision to shoot the movie in the Emirate.

“There is increasing demand for quality Arabic content across the Mena region and beyond and we hope that this is the start of an ongoing partnership with twofour54.”

The National took a tour of twofour54’s Kizad backlot last week. Although the areas where Maghrebi’s latest movie is shooting were closed to press, from what we did see on this rare glimpse into the facility we can understand why so many productions have been flooding here.

The backlot opened in 2016, and consists of three sets, the largest of which is the 20,000 square metres set built for Tiger Zinda Hai. This set took 300 people to build in 102 days. It recreates an entire Iraqi town, including more than 50 shops and a fruit and vegetable market, as well as a war-torn part of the city and the huge hospital set where the film’s infamous lorry stunt took place. The intricate set included about 2,500 windows and 1,000 doors. There’s even a mortuary set for some grisly attention-to-detail.

The other two sets have been built in collaboration with MBC and its production arm O3, and represent small-scale reconstructions of Arabic towns.

The sets were initially constructed for the MBC dramas Haret Al Sheikh (5,400sqm) and Al Asouf (6,500sqm), however the generic nature of the sets means they can easily stand in for towns and cities from the Arab world when their original hosts are not shooting.

The numbers

  • The backlot is 70,000sqm
  • A 20,000sqm set was built for Tiger Zinda Hai
  • A 6,500sqm set was built for Al Asouf
  • A 5,400 sqm set was built for Haret Al Sheikh
  • Located 45 minutes outside of Abu Dhabi
  • Developed in 2016 Awards
  • Studio of the Year at Digital Studio’s Awards 2018
  • Editor’s Choice Award at the ASBU Broadcast Pro Selevision Awards 2017
  • Studio of the Year at Digital Studio’s Awards 2017

Productions

Tiger Zinda Hai – The backlot’s biggest set to date, and the site of a 65-day shoot involving crew from India, the UK and US as well as local professionals. It was released in December 2017, and is one of the highest-grossing Indian movies in history.

Al Asouf – Seasons I and II of MBC’s popular drama both filmed on a purpose-built, 6,500sqm set at Kizad.

Haret El Sheikh – Al Mottnah Sobah’s historical drama recreated 19th century Saudi Arabia for a 75-day shoot ahead of the show’s airing during Ramadan 2016.

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