Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 June 2020

'Aerials': an Emirati sci-fi film in which UFOs hover over Burj Khalifa lands on Netflix

Dubai's skyline takes centre stage in the UAE production

A still from 'Aerials', which is now on Netflix. Photo by Nina Sargsyan 
A still from 'Aerials', which is now on Netflix. Photo by Nina Sargsyan 

An Emirati feature film that shows spaceships hovering over Emirates Towers and past Burj Khalifa, causing people to be stuck in their homes, has landed on Netflix.

The film itself is from 2016, but, four years after being released in UAE cinemas, it is arguably only now having its most high-profile moment, with Netflix picking it up.

The feature was directed by S A Zaidi, and the film’s producer is Ghanem Ghubash: the pair make up the production house Fat Brothers Films, and they completely self-funded Aerials, which took them three years to make.

While the movie is undoubtedly a sci-fi, with Dubai taken over by extraterrestrials and contact cut off from the rest of the world, Aerials is also really a relationship drama. It delves into the cultural differences that become pronounced between the Emirati protagonist Omar (played by Arab-Canadian former rapper Saga Alyasery), and his western wife (Ana Druzhynina) as they are confined to their home by the impending alien apocalypse.

We're sure many people will relate to this storyline now more than ever as the world faces its own, all-too-real pandemic.

When The National spoke to director Zaidi in 2016, he explained that they had help from others in the industry to get the film made, including the Dubai Film and TV Commission "giving them" Sheikh Zayed Road for filming.

“They were really helpful in terms of permissions and the like,” Zaidi said at the time. “They were great with fast-tracking. For example, when we couldn’t shoot right under the Burj Khalifa, they were like, ‘You know what? We’ll give you Sheikh Zayed Road and you can shoot it from there. Shoot it tomorrow, just get it done,’ and that’s something you don’t get easily.”

S.A. Zaidi and Ghanem Ghubash on the set of Aerials. Courtesy of Aerials *** Local Caption *** al99-film-Aerials.JPG
S A Zaidi and Ghanem Ghubash on the set of 'Aerials'. Courtesy 'Aerials'

Emirati cinema has conceptually spread its wings in recent years. There has been horror (Djinn, 2013), a psychological thriller (Zinzana, 2015), a dystopian work (The Worthy, 2016) and a sporting drama (Fan of Amoory, 2018).

Another Emirati production on Netflix is Justice / Qalb Al Adala. After first being broadcast on Abu Dhabi TV, Netflix picked up the 23-part legal procedural drama, produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, last year. Filmed in the capital, the plot focuses on a father and daughter who compete as lawyers and offers insight into the UAE justice system.

The storylines are based on real cases from the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, which partnered on the production to ensure authenticity.

Other Arabic films worth watching on Netflix include Wadjda by Saudi Arabia's first female director, Haifaa Al Mansour, Omar by two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad, Where Do We Go Now? by Academy Award nominee Nadine Labaki, Very Big Shot by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, and Exterior/Night by Ahmad Abdalla.

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Read more:

Where to watch independent Arab films online: 7 options, from Netflix to Cinemoz

The 12 best Korean films and series on Netflix: from 'The Host' to 'Kingdom'

'Sharjah Paramount': the story of the UAE's first cinema, a meeting place for British servicemen and locals

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Updated: May 10, 2020 04:23 PM

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