x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Loss and a win for Imagenation

Imagenation Abu Dhabi's film The Way Back failed to win the Best Makeup category at the Academy Awards, but the company has hired a top-notch director for its upcoming horror film.

No Oscar but film maker lures top-shelf director for UAE film.
No Oscar but film maker lures top-shelf director for UAE film.

ABU DHABI // Although the UAE's sole nomination at the Academy Awards failed to win an Oscar on Sunday night, the film's producers say recognition at that level represents a giant step on to the global stage for a film industry less than a decade old.

The best make-up category was instead won by the team that worked on The Wolfman, a horror film starring Anthony Hopkins, beating out Imagenation Abu Dhabi's The Way Back, the story of a group of prisoners of war who travel 6,400 kilometres by foot from a Soviet gulag to freedom in India. The film, written and directed by Peter Weir, was the first to be backed, in part, by the film production arm of Abu Dhabi Media Company, which also publishes The National.

"This is one of the toughest industries in the world to break into," Michael Garin, the chief executive officer of Imagenation, said yesterday. "It is hard enough from the UK or the US, but to do it here in Abu Dhabi is a challenge. This is our first step and it is a stepping stone into a broader world."

Mr Garin was positive about the impact such international exposure would have, beyond helping to build the film industry. "Imagenation has several missions - the first being to inform and entertain people within the community, and the second to develop human capital," he said.

"Part of our plan, which is in line with the 2030 plan for Abu Dhabi, is to develop intellectual skills, as well as the commercial ones."

The company is preparing for the production of its made-in-the-UAE horror film, Djinn, and Mr Garin announced yesterday that Tobe Hooper - the director behind scary classics The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist - had been hired for the project.

Hooper said he was pleased to be involved in telling the story of a young Emirati couple who discover their apartment has been built on the site of an abandoned fishing village that is also home to malevolent beings.

Djinn, both good and bad, are common elements in Emirati fairy tales.

Mohammed al Mubarak, the Imagenation Abu Dhabi chairman-elect, called Hooper "a pioneer and legend" in the horror genre.