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Jordan’s film industry aims for the stars

Jordan: Tuesday, January 29 - 2008 @ 13:30

Blessed with strong political support and a variety of superb locations that have been used by directors from all over the world, the country’s film industry has a solid foundation to build on. Eager to capitalise on its strengths, the country has taken a number of recent steps to advance its reputation as a film-making centre.

Jordan’s film industry is relatively new, but it is growing rapidly and has enormous promise, said Nada Doumani, Communication and Culture Advisor for Jordan’s Royal Film Commission.

The commission was established in 2003 to foster the country’s fledgling film industry.

‘We are working on building a strong, professional Jordanian film industry that produces quality films. We train aspiring film-makers in all fields related to film-making, from spotting locations, to scriptwriting, cinematography, and editing,’ she explained.

The commission hopes to promote Jordan as a place where people from the Middle East can freely make films alongside the world’s most talented film-makers.

‘We believe that in order to have a well-established film industry in the country, it needs to be culturally anchored in the society,’ Doumani said. ‘That is why we organise screenings all over the country to make film culture accessible to all.’

Ten films in 2007

The Jordan film industry had a boom year in 2007, with 10 feature films – along with numerous shorts – being shot on location in the country. Three of the feature films were Jordanian productions. The overall total represents a significant increase over previous years, in which four to five films on average were shot in the kingdom.

Three of the films shot in Jordan last year have won international awards: the Jordanian ‘Captain Abu Raed’, ‘Redacted’ by Brian de Palma, and ‘Battle for Haditha’ by Nick Broomfield. This year also looks very promising for Jordan, as major films have already been planned and more Jordanian films are in the works.

There are a number of advantages to filming a movie in Jordan, Doumani said. The most obvious benefit is the quality and variety of locations, which include over 10 different types of deserts, several beaches, forests, and historic sites.

‘Films set in almost any part of the Middle East and several other parts of the world may be filmed in Jordan,’ she noted. ‘Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Afghanistan, Spain and New Mexico can all be artistically recreated in the kingdom.’

Other advantages of filming in Jordan include the low cost of cast, crew, and production services, free public locations, a stable political and social environment, and official support for the film industry.

The challenges of filming in the kingdom are the absence of film studios and film labs, and lack of senior highly professional technicians such as directors of photography.

Jordan unveils MFA program

To further bolster its stature as a film-making centre, and help remedy its weaknesses in this area, Jordan has established the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts, which was conceived with the support of the RFC and in partnership with the renowned University of Southern California – School of Cinematic Arts. The institute, located in Aqaba, is a fully-accredited graduate school offering a Master of Fine Arts in Cinematic Arts.

The two-year MFA program will provide Jordan’s film industry with highly trained professionals in all aspects of pre-production, production, and post production. Applications for the inaugural September courses will be accepted beginning February 17, 2008.

Chairperson Randa Ayoubi said the institute’s main objective is to focus and stimulate students aspiring to become leaders in the media business by exposing them to a highly trained pool of exceptional media makers.

Ayoubi is also the CEO of Rubicon, a Jordanian animation firm that made waves last summer with its announcement that it had signed a strategic partnership with MGM studios, the first part of which will be the development of a joint venture, ‘Pink Panther & Pals’. Rubicon will co-finance and co-produce the 26-episode series, which will be based on the Pink Panther characters as kids.

Rubicon will be the exclusive MGM licensing and merchandising agent in the Greater Middle East and North Africa regions. It will therefore oversee the creation and development of products and services for other MGM entertainment properties in these areas.

Rubicon is also exploring Location Based Entertainment (LBE) opportunities by leveraging the MGM brand and certain MGM concepts along with Rubicon’s broad geographic and cultural knowledge and relationships. This will facilitate for MGM LBE business ventures such as theme parks and multi-use real estate. MGM will seek to utilize Rubicon’s localized content to develop new proprietary concepts for L&M and LBE exploitation for the Middle East and North Africa.

Another high-profile project currently being developed by Rubicon is Ben & Izzy, a 3D comedy adventure following a genie and two boys – one from the USA and the other from Jordan – who travel through time and space into the marvels of the Middle East. The 13 x 30 minute state-of-the-art CGI animation series for ages 8-11, calls for a non-judgmental attitude and appreciation of cultures and personal heritage. The stories, plots and themes are universal and designed to cross all cultures and languages, making Ben & Izzy role models for future generations, Ayoubi said.

Queen Noor launches $100m fund

In the most recent development involving the Jordan film industry, Queen Noor unveiled a $100m fund to back major film productions that help combat stereotypes.

The fund will ‘support the production and distribution of films that entertain as well as enlighten – films that will enhance the connections that already exist between different societies, but are seldom noted on screen and in popular culture,’ she said.

The fund has an initial investment of $10m, and has established partnerships with Hollywood production and distribution companies, including Participant Productions, which was behind the film ‘Syriana’ starring George Clooney.

See also:
Hollywood comes to the Middle East

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Tuesday, January 29- 2008 @ 13:30 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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