x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

BBC teases with taster of Arabian wildlife film

Fredi Devas says his work for the BBC has taken him from the polar ice caps to the Middle East's deserts.

The BBC director Fredi Devas talks during his presentation From the Freezer to the Furnace at ADFF yesterday. Delores Johnson / The National
The BBC director Fredi Devas talks during his presentation From the Freezer to the Furnace at ADFF yesterday. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // The capital will receive plenty of screen time in a coming BBC documentary that is said to be one of the British broadcaster's most ambitious projects.

Wild Arabia will explore the wildlife and cultural heritage of the region and is expected to be ready for broadcast in two years.

Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) attendees had a glimpse of some raw footage in a presentation yesterday by the BBC director Fredi Devas.

"The wildlife of Arabia is under-represented and has not been explored in this way," said Devas. "So that's why a project like this is so exciting. Very few people know about the various species and their habitat across the different regions."

He said his crew had been told it would be almost impossible to film the elusive Arabian leopard, but the team captured the first high-definition footage of the big cat.

Devas travelled to the ADFF from Oman where he has been shooting for the past month.

Wild Arabia will concentrate on Abu Dhabi, particularly the Empty Quarter and Bu Tinah Island, but will also feature Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan. Among the animal stars will be camels, falcons and humpback whales.

The researcher is no stranger to harsh climates. Devas spent three and a half years filming in the polar regions for the BBC's Frozen Planet, to be broadcast in the UK next week.

Spectacular scenes from that documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, were also shown at ADFF.

Frozen Planet has been credited with breakthroughs in knowledge about animal behaviour. Polar bears, first thought to be solitary and aggressive, show their social side.

Animal handlers say one should not get within 30 metres of the bear but Devas managed six metres.

"I probably overstepped the boundaries there," he laughed.

There were also revelations about hunting methods of killer whales, filmed working together to create underwater turbulence to catch a seal.

Devas said he was happy with local support for Wild Arabia.

"We've been speaking to experts on the ground like field biologists," he said. "We received many photographs and information on the behaviour of certain animals, which helped us put them on the list."

David Shepheard, the director of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, said the documentary would prove invaluable for the UAE.

"Wild Arabia will be viewed by millions," he said.

melshoush@thenational.ae