Nayla Al Khaja

Driven by Passion

Nayla Al Khaja is the first female film Director/Producer in the United Arab Emirates. CEO of Nayla Al Khaja Films – previously D-Seven Motion Pictures – she is also founder of The Scene, Dubai’s first film club. Over the years, her dedication to develop the UAE’s film industry, and her advocacy for Women in Cinema, helped her reputation of trustworthy professional grow.

Nayla wrote and directed several films, all presented and awarded in many international film festivals. She works closely with the Dubai Film and TV Commission to promote Dubai as the fastest growing filming hub in the region. Actively supporting and mentoring local talents, she is today a reference in the Middle East when it comes to Cinema Promotion and Women Empowerment.

Full Bio

NAYLA AL KHAJA – BIOGRAPHY
Nayla Al Khaja is the first female film Director/Producer in the United Arab Emirates. CEO of Nayla Al Khaja Films (previously D-Seven Motion Pictures), she founded in 2007 The Scene Club, Dubai’s first film club, which now counts over 22,000 registered members. Over the years, her passion, artistic integrity, dedication to develop the Emirati film industry, and continuous advocacy for Women in Cinema, helped her reputation of trustworthy professional grow, while she was becoming an influential businesswoman.
The Genesis of a Vocation
Holder of a degree in Mass Communication from Dubai Women's College, she quickly understood that her true vocation was in the 7th Art. She applied to Ryerson University (Canada), and graduated with a Bachelor in Image Studies and Filmmaking in 2005. Back to Dubai, Nayla realized that finance might be an obstacle to her dream of pioneering the film industry. Instead of losing hope, she proactively looked for funds and found resources for her first film, Unveiling Dubai. Supported by H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister of Higher Education, this documentary was presented at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and massively acclaimed. Being the first Emirati woman to embark on such a career, and given the context of a nascent cinema industry in the UAE, Nayla immediately received international media attention and accolades from across the world.
Materializing the Vision
In 2006, Nayla wrote and directed her first short film, Arabana about child abuse, which premiered at DIFF 2007. The same year she was awarded the title of Best Emirati Filmmaker. She wrote and directed three more short films: Once (2009), Malal (2010) and The Neighbor (2013). Malal received the Muhr Emirati Award at DIFF 2010 and The Neighbor was awarded Best Emirati Film at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Film Festival. To date, her films have participated in over 42 festivals worldwide. A few months ago, In October 2016, Nayla shot a pilot for her first feature film, Animal, currently at the pre-production stage. Nominated for the Muhr Emirati Awards, Animal’s pilot was presented last December at DIFF 2016. The short film received the Jury’s Special Prize for Best Short Fiction at the Italian Movie Award in Pompeii, Italy, in September 2017. Nayla is currently developing her first feature film, Animal.
Pioneering and Inspiring
Since inception, D-Seven Motion Pictures – now Nayla Al Khaja Films – has focused on the local production of various films, fully developed and produced ‘in-house’, bringing a wealth of experience and cultural knowledge to national and international projects. In 2015, D-Seven was approached by Discovery Studios (USA), to produce and prepare a reality show highlighting the best of Dubai, while empowering women. E!, the largest American reality-show network, bought the rights for the show and D-Seven line-produced a pilot, the first of its kind to be entirely shot in Dubai.
A role model in the Middle East
The same year, the Dubai Film and TV Commission hired Nayla’s company to shoot a behind-the-scenes film presenting Dubai through the eyes of the mega-budget film Star Trek 3. The video helped promote Dubai as the fastest growing filming hub in the region and convince other filmmakers to consider Dubai as their next destination to film. Over the years, D-Seven has produced films for local and international brands (Mercedes, BMW, Vogue, Nike, Nivea, Gucci, Samsung, Canon, LG, Maggi, and Neutrogena, to name a few), while constantly encouraging and mentoring local young talents. More recently, in August 2017, Canon Middle East, leader in imaging solutions, confirmed Nayla as its official Brand Ambassador. She is also frequently a speaker on prestigious events like TEDx.
A Growing Influence
A few months ago, The Scene and Roxy Cinemas, an Emirati venture by Meraas, have become official partners and are now collaborating to present to UAE audiences a selection of indie movies and award-winning films in their original formats to big screens across Roxy’s network of cinema outlets (City Walk, The Beach, JBR and the recently opened luxury-boutique branch in BoxPark). 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of The Scene, which grew from a mere 50 members in its first year, to over 22,000 registered members in 2017. The Scene’s popularity has grown with such enthusiasm that new branches are scheduled to open soon in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Today, very active on social media channels, Nayla is becoming an influencer by creating digital content. She is directing/producing her own YouTube series "Out and About" – a rendition of Vlogs highlighting her interactions across the city – and delivers on a daily basis numerous Live sessions on Instagram (@naylaalkhaja), where she shares with her followers her life as a filmmaker.
International recognition
Nayla’s accolades include being ranked amongst the Top 50 most powerful personalities in Arab Cinema, and 100 most powerful Arabs under 40 by Arabian Business Magazine. She’s also been awarded the Visionary of the Year Award at the Arabian Business Awards, and offered of Brand Ambassador for Canon Middle East. Nayla’s exploits has also earned her the Emirates Woman of the Year (2005), and The Youngest Entrepreneur of the Year from Global Businesswomen and Leaders’ Summit Awards. In 2017, she has been nominated for the Gulf Business Awards in the category Entrepreneur of the Year, and the CEO Middle East Awards 2017 in the categories Female CEO of the Year and Visionary of the Year, not only for her achievements as a professional filmmaker advocating for a better and stronger recognition of Women in Cinema, but also for the remarkable success of her production company.

Awards

  • Jury Special Prize, Best Short Fiction, for Animal, Italian Movie Award, Pompeii, Italy, 2017
  • Winner of Best short film for “The Neighbor”, Middle East Now Festival, Florence, Italy, 2015
  • 100 most powerful Arabs under 40 – Arabian Business Power List, 2015
  • Winner – Muhr Emirati Special Jury Award – “The Neighbor” – Dubai International Film Festival, 2015
  • Recognized as 500 Most Powerful Arab People, 2012
  • Recognized as Top 50 Most Powerful Arab Women, 2012
  • Visionary of the Year – Arabian Business Awards, 2011
  • Production of the Year “Malal” – Digital Studio Award, 2011
  • 1st Prize – Muhr Emirati category “Malal” – Dubai International Film Festival, 2010
  • Best Script Award – Gulf International Film Festival, 2010
  • 1st Prize – International Young Screen Entrepreneur – British Council, UK, 2010
  • 1st Prize – International Young Screen Entrepreneur – British Council, UAE, 2010
  • 1st Prize – Emirati Short Film Script Competition – Gulf Film Festival, UAE, 2010
  • UAE Woman of the Year – Film/Photo Category – L’Officiel Magazine, 2009
  • Best Female Filmmaker – Dubai International Film Festival, 2007
  • Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year – 6th Middle East Businesswomen and Leaders Achievement Awards, 2007
  • Inspirational Leadership Award – Lloyds TSB Bank, 2006
  • Alumni of the Year – Dubai Women’s College, 2006
  • Emirates Woman of the Year – Emirates Woman Magazine, 2005
  • Local Artist of the Year – Emirates Woman Magazine, 2005
  • The Youngest Entrepreneur – Global Businesswomen and Leaders’ Summit Awards, 200
  • Action Cut Award, New Jersey, USA, 2003
  • Alumni Entrepreneur Award – Dubai Women’s College, 1998

Accolades

  • Entrepreneur of the Year, Gulf Business Awards, September 2017
  • Top Female Entrepreneur in The Middle East – August 2013
  • Doha Film Institute (DFI), First Cycle of Hazawi Fund for Nayla's short film ‘Three’ – April 2013
  • Chosen by Abu Dhabi Media hub to represent them on a CNN commercial
  • Presenting ‘A Sleeping Giant called Film’ at BOLD Talks, 2011
  • Chosen by Doha Film Institute to do a portrait with Brigette Lacombe for Doha Tribeca Film Festival, 2010
  • Joins Abu Dhabi Film Commission in Melbourne International Film Festival, 2010
  • Endorser for Emirates NBD Bank
  • UAE Representative (Filmmaker Category), US Dept. of State, International Visitors Leadership Program, 2010
  • Jury member at the Middle East International Film Festival, 2009
  • Appointed as the cultural guide and co-host on Paris Hilton’s “My BFF”
  • Dubai Women’s College Alumnae Entrepreneur Award, 1992-1998
  • Official judge for Red Bull: The Art of Can, 2008
  • The only UAE national to be featured in Ahlan’s Hot 100 for three consecutive years
  • Won a Kodak grant to produce “The Loss”, which was released in Canada, 2004

Gucci

brand endorsement as part of 'Women in Cinema' at Venice International Film Festival, 2012

Once (2009)

Written & Directed by Nayla Al Khaja |Cast: Nifin G. Al Din, Bassim Sami Al Khalif, Hammad B. Al Khalif | Genre: Drama and Romance

Malal (2010)

Written & Directed by Nayla Al Khaja | Cast: Nayla Al Khaja, Hormuz Mehta, Ghassan Al Khateri | Genre: Drama and Romance

Hi (2012)

Written & Directed by Nayla Al Khaja | Cast: Mona Al Assa’d, Sheree Framrose | Genre: Drama
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Liyalina

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