In her article All the right moves, published in “The Talking Point” of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, December 2017, Emily Baxter talks power moves, artistic platforms and shattering cultural norms with the film industry’s cinematic pioneers.
As the curtain lifts on the 14th annual Dubai International Film Festival, Bazaar talks to six pioneers – including Nayla Al Khaja – guiding the changing face of an embryonic-cum-contemporary regional film industry, each representing a proliferation of creatives using their work as a mouthpiece for the Middle East. Directors, producers, writers and filmmakers, each with their own definitive experience of life in this region, they use their unique cinematic narratives to bring our culture to the fore. By chronicling history and amplifying perspectives of society in 21st century Arabia and beyond, these visionaries cast light over a region oft shrouded in mystery. They are leaders in their fields and where they go, hopefully many more will follow, allowing a burgeoning film movement to blossom into a mature industry.
The stars align further more so when creative fields converge. Cinema has long-influenced fashion, with archival kinships dating back to the birth of cinema in the late 19th century. On a present day playing field, one fashion force heralding innovation, creativity, and artisanship in the arts is Bottega Veneta, an Italian house steeped in tradition and history. With a deep-rooted vision for attention to detail, high precision and relentless perfectionism, which sees it turn leather craftsmanship into a true art form, the house pays homage in parallel to the same masterful characteristics in other cultural fields. Last month Bottega Veneta hosted the Hammer Gala for the fourth year running, in celebration of visionary creatives who have changed the landscape of the arts. This month, the brand focuses its attention on film, illuminating the achievements of the six Middle Eastern women in our story.
Through Bottega Veneta’s mutual affiliation with cultural creativity, it helps draw attention to relevant narratives from a contemporary Middle East, whilst strengthening the bonds between fashion and film even further. It’s a beautiful, symbiotic relationship that coexists through a mutual language of vision, evolution, and originality, and one that Bazaar is always happy to celebrate.
Nayla Al Khaja: “I’ve recently been working on Hakawi: Ambitious Saudi on Quest Arabiya. It was a groundbreaking, high-end commission telling the stories of people making a big difference in Saudi, helping to elevate its cultural perception. We worked with the first Saudi all-female basketball team. It was amazing. And now I can say that I have published work, which is vital, because people don’t take you seriously unless you do. The pilot to my short film Animal won Best Film at the Italian Movie Awards 2017, and I’m now developing it into a feature-length film. It’s been nominated for the IWC Award at DIFF this year, which means Cate Blanchett will be reading my script. Even if I don’t win, I’ll be happy with that. It’s about a mentally abusive father whose presence sends waves of fear through his family, asking the question whether the family will survive or break apart. A lot of people relate to it, because it represents anyone who is a control freak. Although I wrote it before the Harvey Weinstein story broke, the timing is very apt. If it wins or not, I’m going to raise the money to fund it – either by approaching banks or through crowd-funding. But I’d prefer to get the big bucks from the big boys. I recently attended a conference in the US that said only four per cent of women’s work is produced and published. That’s a joke. The execs signing all the cheques are men, so they’re used to hiring men and have little faith in handing a big budget project to a woman. There’s a better gender balance here, simply because the industry started late. It’s only two decades old, so the boys and girls are coming up together, which means there will be a better balance once the industry takes shape. It needs more funding, which is my next move – to start the first private film fund, where I have the investors on board, and we get to sign the cheques. The industry here is an aquarium not an ocean, where we can really be heard. It’s new, fresh and energetic, so the perfect place to start making films.”
Credits: Nayla was wearing Bottega Veneta clothes for the photo shoot (top, skirt and clutch) – Photography by Richard Hall and styling by Anna Castan.
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