x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

'Dubai Idol' heads for the silver screen

A labour camp singing competition that takes place across the country each year is to be made into a film.

DUBAI // A labour camp singing competition that takes place across the country each year is to be made into a film after it drew the attention of prominent Dubai-based filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour.

The Lebanese director is raising funds to make a documentary about the "Champ of the Camp" contest - nicknamed Dubai Idol - when the 2011 season begins next summer. 

Sixteen film crew members will follow four promising contestants over several months as they compete in qualifying rounds in their camp, then rehearse day after day - on the bus, on the job, back at camp - and finally perform at the finale before an audience of hundreds. 

"It is about music being cathartic, by giving them hope as they work in the UAE to build a new life and support their families back home," said Kaabour. 

"There's a risk we might not follow the guy who wins at the end, but that's not what the film is about," he said. "It's about how song is becoming an inspiration."

Last year, the competition drew 2,000 applicants from 40 camps - five times more than when it began in 2007. In February, Kaabour invited some of the singers to perform at his biannual film festival, MahMovies, in front of 300 guests. 

To raise the $500,000 (Dh1.8m) he estimates he will need for the project, he pitched his idea to dozens of potential investors earlier this month at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, a major gathering for the documentary industry in the UK.

He also plans to visit the Subcontinent to raise funds. 

"It's a shame that such an important local film will not be entirely funded here," he said. "Truth is, there aren't enough funds in the Middle East that could get a film like this off the ground."

Funding and profit can be hard to come by for documentaries in this part of the world, said Salim Ramia, a partner at Gulf Film, a leading film distribution company in the Middle East. 

"Usually, documentary movies have no followers in this part of the world, and I think it would be difficult for a local movie to make any business," he said.  

Kaabour has collected Dh50,000 for the documentary so far, after it won Best Script at the Abu Dhabi Anasy Documentary Awards. 

Last month, another film of his won the $100,000 Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. 

 

chuang@thenational.ae