x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sports films can score in the Middle East

Abu Dhabi is in a strong position in the genre given its associations with events and teams.

There is a gap in the market for Bend it Like Beckham-style sports movies and TV shows in the Middle East, according to Abu Dhabi's film commissioner. David Shepheard, the director of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission (ADFC), says sports-related content "is a growing entertainment business for the Middle East".

He said Abu Dhabi had a particular interest in developing such titles, given its associations with sporting brands such as Formula One, Manchester City Football Club and the English Premier League. "Using popular sports is always a good draw for an audience. You create a narrative story around a sports theme - and it's a good kind of mixture," he said. Mr Shepheard citedBlue Moon Rising, a documentary detailing Manchester City's first season under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, as an example of sports-related entertainment carrying resonance in the Middle East.

"There are other major sports events that are happening that are gaining interest from media and television," he said. "They're looking at using sport as a genre in entertainment [and] in filmmaking." Mr Shepheard gave examples of Abu Dhabi-held sports interests such as the English Premier League broadcast rights. The Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), which owns and publishes The National, holds the regional broadcast rights to the football tournement.

"There have been famous movies in the past like Bend it Like Beckham, which used football as its main premise. [Media and filmmakers] are looking now at how they can use sport as a key theme within these projects," he added. Mr Shepheard was speaking at the announcement of the names of the speakers appearing at The Circle Conference on film production and financing, which is held from tomorrow to Friday and runs concurrently with the opening of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. The event will feature a panel discussion entitled "Sports Both Fact and Fiction", focusing on the crossover between sports and entertainment.

More than 70 television and film executives will attend the conference, now in its fourth year. This year's keynote speakers include the Tunisian financier and producer Tarak ben Ammar and the US producer Ed Pressman, whose credits includethe original Wall Street, its recently released sequeland Conan the Barbarian. Jason Blum, the producer of Paranormal Activity, a horror film shot for US$15,000 (Dh55,097) but which grossed $192 million, will be part of a panel entitled "Funding Independent Features in a Global Market". Nicholas Chartier, the Oscar-winning producer of The Hurt Locker, will be part of a panel discussing success stories in Middle East film, with a particular focus on Jordan. The panel will be presented by Princess Rym Al Ali, who is a board member of the Royal Film Commission in Jordan.

The conference will also include a discussion on women in film and will culminate in the presentation of the Shasha Grant, a $100,000 award towards the development of a film script. This year, 600 guests will attend the conference, up from 350 last year, said Mr Shepheard. 

bflanagan@thenational.ae 

To view a selection of trailers and film clips from Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010, visit www.thenational.ae/ADFFtrailers