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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Hajwala 2: the follow-up to the UAE’s only million-dollar banking film is all wrapped up

The cast of about 50 actors, extras, drivers and stunt performers included performers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, India, Morocco, Sudan and Syria

Maher Al Shami, Abdelmunim Mahmoud Saied, Meral Niazi and Sedeq Naji are all in step for ‘Hajwala 2’. Courtesy Empire International Gulf 
Maher Al Shami, Abdelmunim Mahmoud Saied, Meral Niazi and Sedeq Naji are all in step for ‘Hajwala 2’. Courtesy Empire International Gulf 

Hajwala 2: The Mystery Mission, the sequel to the highest-grossing UAE film to date, 2016’s high-octane supercar fest Hajwala: The Missing Engine, has finished shooting, following a grueling 300-hour, 30-day shoot that took place in the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain.

The movie, a co-production between recently founded Abu Dhabi production house Dhabi Films and the Dubai film distributor Empire International, continues the story of the local car drifting community. It brings together stars of track and screen from around the region, including Emirati actors Hussain Al Hosani and Ali Abdulla Al Marzooqi and renowned drifters including Saudi YouTube star Abdulla Al Youssif.

The producers will be hoping the film builds on the success of its predecessor, the only Emirati film ever to have taken more than $1 million (Dh3.67m) at the local box office. The shoot was huge by local standards, featuring a multi-national crew of about 30, including specialists and technicians from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India, the Philippines, Egypt and Morocco.

The trailer for Hajwala: The Missing Engine:

The cast of about 50 actors, extras, drivers and stunt performers, meanwhile, was a similarly multinational affair, including performers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, India, Morocco, Sudan and Syria.

Director Ibrahim bin Mohamed returned to take charge of the sequel. “We’re delighted that we’ve finished the shoot and executed our plan and schedule on time. I thank the crew, the creative actors and both production companies, Dhabi Films and Empire International, for providing all the necessary requirements and elements for the shooting as well as their support which made the shooting smooth and allowed us to succeed,” bin Mohamed commented on completing the shooting.

Cast and crew on set. Courtesy Empire International Gulf 
Cast and crew on set. Courtesy Empire International Gulf 

He said that audiences could expect something a little different from the new movie: “It’s an action, crime and comedy movie all together, and was filmed with a new way of thinking, and a different kind of story and audience in mind,” he revealed.

Bin Mohamed’s assistant Hassan Al Jabri, who worked as second unit director on the shoot, agreed, and said that audiences can look forward to some outstanding performances from the film’s talented international cast: “I would say that the movie offers a different experience, especially in the way it deals with different nationalities and roles,” he said. “We are preparing an exceptional movie for the whole Middle East movie audience. Captain Abdallah Youssef, the Saudi hajwala and drift champion, participated in this movie in addition to Kshouna, the outstanding female talent in automotive sports who performed a distinguished role.

“Moreover, Hussain Al Hosani, known as ‘Masterkami’, will also appear as one of the best and surprising comedians in the film scene in the UAE and the whole Gulf region.”

Ali Marzooqi, director general of Dhabi Films, said that Hajwala 2 represents a huge milestone, both for his own fledgling movie production company and for the UAE movie industry as a whole.

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He said that the scale of the production was unprecedented for an independent UAE film, with scriptwriting and pre-production taking over a year-and-a-half before the crew put their feet on the ground for a full month of shooting in at least 15 different locations. With the film now set to undergo the editing and post production process, Marzouqi said that audiences can expect to see a massive marketing campaign within the local movie industry in the run up to the film’s release in November.

Marzooqi’s co-producer, Empire president Mario Haddad, is no stranger to hit movies – his company has previously acted as regional distributor on box office and critical hits including Blade Runner 2049 and the Spider-Man series.

This is the first time his company has produced a film, however, and Haddad seemed pleased with the results so far: “We’re incredibly excited to be taking part in this project,” he said. “We believe in the potential of Emirati films and, following the success of the first Haj­wala, we are confident that the sequel will appeal to Arab audiences and we can’t wait to show everyone what we have worked on.”

Director Ibrahim bin Mohamed, rally driver Abdo Feghali and assistant Hassan Al Jabri. Courtesy Empire International Gulf 
Director Ibrahim bin Mohamed, rally driver Abdo Feghali and assistant Hassan Al Jabri. Courtesy Empire International Gulf 

Haddad also singled out Abdo Feghali, the Lebanese rally driver and star of the Red Bull Car Park Drift scene for particular praise for his support as a guest star on set.

Hajwala 2 is set to release in November, which the producers said should be perfectly timed for a growing cinema scene in Saudi Arabia. They hope that Hajwala 2 will be one of the key locally made films to be shown at cinemas in the kingdom this year and perhaps even surpass the achievements of the first film thanks to the huge new market that is opening up.