IN THE NEWS
The Hot Forty: Nayla Al Khaja
When she isn’t making, thinking or talking movies, Nayla Al Khaja, CEO of film production company D-Seven, likes to discover cities around the world on a rented motorbike. The first-ever female Emirati film producer is perhaps best known for the films she directed: Malal, which won the Muhr Emirati Gold Award in Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) last year, several years after she premiered her debut documentary, Unveiling Dubai (2004) at the same event. In 2010, her script for Malal won the Best Script Award in the Gulf International Film Festival 2010. She shot it in August the same year at Kerala in India and returned to DIFF in December to collect an award in the Muhr Emirati category.
Nayla routinely looks for inspiration and is documenting life as she sees it in an area where there is little precedent for it. Her 2008 film, Once, handled the topic of Emirati women dating. The movie that has remained a path breaker is Arabana (2006), which is about child abuse. Captured in six minutes the movie is known to be hard-hitting and sensitive at the same time. She is now working on her first feature film.
When not behind the camera she creates an atmosphere for the appreciation of film. In partnership with DIFF, she started a non-profit club called The Scene Club, inviting international directors to showcase their independent films in the UAE. The club has more than 3,500 registered members.
Beyond film, Nayla, who has a degree from Canada’s Ryerson University, runs a marketing and design agency that offers full media campaign and corporate branding services. She has worked on projects such as Annie Leibovitz Studio, producing the complete Men’s Vogue photo shoot for tennis champion Roger Federer in Dubai; the campaign for Special Olympics (Middle East and North Africa) in 2006 in Dubai and in 2008 in Abu Dhabi; the branding of the UAE Football Association and Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences; and producing a film for Nike.