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Why this producer is optimistic on the future of local films

As the manager of local film and television at Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Hana is on a constant lookout for interesting stories to feature, both here and around the region. Just some of the projects she has worked on include As One: The Autism Project, Lights of RomeBack to the Wild and the soon-to-air series documenting the UAE’s ancient history. Features writer Ferdinand Godinez chats with the lively producer director.

What ignited your love affair with motion pictures?

It all started when I went to my first film class as an undergrad. They played The Godfather, and I was hooked.

In your opinion, what makes a good film?

Filmmaking is a collaborative medium and it is through great collaboration that good films are made.

To have great collaboration, you must first have a vision that you can all share.

I’ve seen that work firsthand in our upcoming comedy film Rashid & Rajab [showing across the region on Eid Al Fitr]. Mohammad Saeed Harib has incredible vision as a director and it truly turned out to be a great film because of that.

Rashid & Rajab

Rashid & Rajab

What is it about documentary films that pull viewers in?

One of my favourite quotes on the topic is from Alfred Hitchcock, who said: “In feature films the director is God; in documentary films, God is the director.” In my opinion, a true documentary is harshly real, and when you put a camera to that, human curiosity does the rest.

Tell us about your work at Image Nation?

I spend every day reading stories from the region and around the world, all in the hope of finding something that makes it through to the screen. It’s thrilling.

What is also particularly rewarding is collaborating with writers and directors to make fiction a reality.

My favourite moment on a set is watching all the characters you’ve been imagining on the page sitting around the table at lunchtime – it’s a strange combination of déjà vu and vivid daydream.

The UAE has a young film industry. Where do you think it’s heading in the coming years?

We are at a pivotal moment in our industry, having won our first Oscar [for Free Solo], launched our first Emirati-led TV series and with theaters opening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Image Nation set out to build an industry and with strong foundations and accolades, the only way is up. We also have a great training programme called Arab Film Studio, where I have seen first-hand some amazing talent coming through.

How do you think Free Solo’s Oscar victory will impact the local film industry?

The international success of the documentary has echoed here in the UAE and we’re very proud to have been a part of its success story.

Free Solo

Alex Honnold free soloing the Scotty-Burke offwedth pitch of Freerider on Yosemite’s El Capitan. (National Geographic/Jimmy Chin)

We hope Free Solo will help inspire even more local talent and encourage UAE-based filmmakers to create world-class productions, which in turn can continue to motivate generations to come.

We are optimistic this will be the first of many international accolades for Image Nation and the UAE film industry.

Can you tell us more about the History of Emirates documentary? 

The History of the Emirates is a five-part documentary that takes the audience through the UAE’s history of exploration, innovation and tolerance, dating back 125,000 years.

The documentary features cutting edge technology and will air across local outlets in the UAE in the fall and a three part series will air globally on National Geographic as well.

We are all extremely proud of this project and we can’t wait for people to see it and learn more about the UAE’s remarkable past.

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