GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Arab Gulf States Films: Global Image Projection or Local Industry Construction?
Paper Proposal Text :
Arab Gulf States Films: Global Image Projection or Local Industry Construction?

This research moves beyond the debates about Muslim stereotypes in Hollywood movies by exploring modern Gulf films and film initiatives as modes of representation and projection. Though discussion of stereotypes is important, it is equally important to look at what is happening on the ground in the Gulf States. This paper takes a critical discourse analysis approach to investigating the current state of film production in the Gulf States and its potential developments. It also provides a critique of Gulf States’ eagerness to promote foreign cultural achievements on the international stage by looking at their film initiatives. Film is a universal medium that can transcend geographical boundaries and vividly communicate about others’ societies. Though Gulf films have existed since the 1960s, independent filmmakers have been confronted with social and cultural obstacles, in addition to a lack of funding and distribution opportunities, to producing and marketing their films outside the region. In the last decade, Arab Gulf States have witnessed a surge across the continuum of film making and public exhibition, which allow the prospect of its film culture maturing and growing. The lavish support for Gulf filmmakers in most Gulf States, particularly the UAE and Qatar, is a promising indication of an emerging Gulf States national cinema. The film industries of other nations have played a vital role in projecting their nations’ images globally.

While intensive research has been done on the projection of Arab States in western newspapers, cable networks and cinemas which influence the perception of people in the West, this paper is founded on the notion of the ‘encounter’ with a critical lens to examine the image projection in Arab Gulf States film initiatives and film production, and the influence of these projections on the international stage. The research presents two cases that evaluate the extent to which Arab Gulf States feature films and film establishments, as image projection, contribute to shape new perceptions of the Arab Gulf States. The first case takes the production of two independent films, City of Life (UAE, 2009) and Wadjda (Saudi Arabia, 2012), and surveys their reception at international film festivals and box offices. These two films were able to win awards at prestigious international film festivals and/or sell their theatrical, DVD and digital distribution rights across North American and European markets. Secondly, the research discusses the role of several state-funded organizations such as Dubai International Film Festival, Doha Film Institute, TowFour54 and Dubai Media City and how these state-of-the-art enterprises nurture and foster Gulf film culture and cinephilia. These organizations have long-standing links with international film players and stakeholders such as Hollywood and Bollywood, which help to put the Gulf on the map as an emerging film market. Blockbuster films shot in the Gulf region, such as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), have benefited from the UAE’s cash rebates and incentives programs in exchange for promoting and projecting its modern constructions, advanced film infrastructure and multiethnic society. This is proving noteworthy in constructing favorable perceptions of the UAE, as is well reflected in its economy, particularly the tourism sector. The research is expected to pave the way for a new area of research in the literature of Gulf Media Studies by assessing central elements of the development of the film medium and questioning its impact.

If there is any opportunity, I would like to include in my presentation the screening of a five-minute video essay which I created as part of this research.