STRONG SPIRIT OF FILM­MAK­ING

Films have al­ways been a pow­er­ful tool in de­liv­er­ing mean­ing­ful mes­sages through vi­su­als and nar­ra­tions. Whether they make us laugh, feel sym­pa­thetic, or tear us apart, they will con­tinue to be the strong­est medium for sto­ry­tellers ev­ery­where. Akkasa, the

HI Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - STORY SALIM AL AFIFI • PHO­TOS SUP­PLIED

Akkasa, the pro­duc­tion house in Oman, is mak­ing stead­fast ef­forts to make the film in­dus­try thrive in the Sul­tanate.

Ial­ways en­vied our neigh­bour­ing coun­tries when it came to film­mak­ing and pro­duc­tion, es­pe­cially dur­ing Ra­madan, when most Oma­nis would re­main glued to their tele­vi­sion sets to watch the tra­di­tional shows. While we did have our own pro­grammes too, but noth­ing ever caught my in­ter­est. My disappointment came to an end when I came to know about a group of lo­cal tal­ent called Akkasa who get to­gether to shoot videos that will leave your jaw dropped to the floor.

Akkasa is a pro­duc­tion house that pro­duces a va­ri­ety of cre­ative projects such as me­dia pro­duc­tion, scriptwrit­ing, story board­ing, pro­duc­tion bud­get­ing, pro­duc­tion ser­vices, video shoot­ing, di­rect­ing, pro­duc­tion man­ag­ing, and post-pro­duc­tion ser­vices like edit­ing, colour correction, vis­ual ef­fects, and sound mix­ing. And, it’s an all-Omani tal­ent and crew kind of a house made of eight pas­sion­ate vi­sion­ar­ies, which gives us all rea­sons to be su­per proud.

I came across Akkasa when I was still study­ing in Malaysia, and I was stunned by the crafts­man­ship that the crew car­ries; their work is ut­terly pol­ished and very pro­fes­sional (no ex­ag­ger­a­tion) and it made me re­alise that we do have a pos­si­bil­ity to have a film in­dus­try in the coun­try.

Fast for­ward a cou­ple of years, the house grew in tal­ent and ex­pe­ri­ence and got meatier with projects that have uber-cool vis­ual ef­fects. Ear­lier this week, I stopped by their stu­dio in Bausher and had a quick chat with Akkasa’s CEO, Mohammed Al Harthy, and Mustafa Al Lawati, who is a tal­ented film di­rec­tor and scriptwriter. The gentle­men gave me a warm wel­come and in­tro­duced me to their work­ing space to talk about their jour­ney so far.

Ahmed has al­ways been a fan of films and cre­ative mo­tion. He and a bunch of his friends started shoot­ing videos for fun while study­ing in col­lege. Soon, they ven­tured into com­mer­cial projects, leav­ing their ex­per­i­men­tal phase be­hind and moved onto an­other ad­ven­ture (or rather busi­ness). In 2011, Ahmed and Mustafa launched Akkasa Pro­duc­tions along­side their co-founder and film edi­tor Salim Al Harbi.

Grow­ing up, Mohammed de­vel­oped love for art and de­sign. His in­ner artist came out to play when he was a sixth grader and soon he be­gan ex­plor­ing in pho­tog­ra­phy. As he en­tered high school, he de­vel­oped a pas­sion for mov­ing images and shifted from pho­tog­ra­phy to video mak­ing.

For Mustafa it was a dif­fer­ent game; he was a man full of vi­sions. Ever since he was a child he ad­mired film­mak­ing. He was cu­ri­ous as to how it is made. His lay­ers of raw tal­ent be­gan to un­fold in the form of draw­ings as he loved to tell sto­ries and make up sce­nar­ios. He also en­joyed play­ing with Le­gos, which made his sce­nar­ios a bit more be­liev­able and close to his vi­sion.

His pas­sion grew so strong that one day he sim­u­lated a war sce­nario with real fire and ended up burn­ing up the place. All of these shenani­gans were a true in­di­ca­tion that Mustafa’s fu­ture was in the film di­rect­ing depart­ment, and his dra­matic con­cepts can be seen in­ter­preted in Akkasa’s pro­duc­tions.

“What in­spires you?” I asked. “We watch a lot of short films, ad­ver­tise­ments, and even an­i­ma­tions. These el­e­ments have sig­nif­i­cance in feed­ing your imag­i­na­tion,” Mohammed said. “In­stru­men­tals are my num­ber one source of in­spi­ra­tion, and I also watch a lot of in­de­pen­dent films,” Mustafa added.

Akkasa’s port­fo­lio is re­plete with in­ter­est­ing ma­te­ri­als. They have loads of projects, but I was in­trigued by two in par­tic­u­lar. The first is called ‘Oman Tahhki’ which trans­lates to Omani Sto­ries, a nar­ra­tive show that tells tales from the past, de­pict­ing iconic mo­ments that took place in our his­tory. The project was made with vis­ual ef­fects and graph­ics that left me in awe, and kept trend­ing for quite some time on Twit­ter. It’s an ef­fort that’s cel­e­brated by many lo­cals in­clud­ing my­self. And, they re­leased an orig­i­nal song for it. The show has a 300 movie vibe that you shouldn’t miss.

My sec­ond favourite is a short film, Vik­ing vs Alien in which the di­rect­ing, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, and vis­ual ef­fects were on point. Mi­grated Manuscripts is an­other ma­jor project aired dur­ing Ra­madan, which is a mock­u­men­tary that in­volved shoot­ing-manuscripts of lo­cals who mi­grated to other coun­ties and left their marks there.

The project was filmed in six coun­tries; Rus­sia, Turkey, Poland, Italy, France, and the UK, col­lect­ing manuscripts from li­braries, uni­ver­si­ties, and mu­se­ums. Some scenes were shot in Nizwa, Manah, and Bahla in Oman. Other projects in­clude Salam Air, Sul­tan Qa­boos Univer­sity, and min­istries to name a few.

So with a team like Akkasa’s, why we still don’t have a proper fea­ture film? Well, that’s be­cause Oman is still grow­ing. “Oman has a ton of po­ten­tial for cin­ema,” said Mustafa, adding that “it has di­ver­sity in land and ter­rain, which can eas­ily be­come a base for kick-start­ing in­ter­na­tional-stan­dard cin­ema.”

Mustafa thanked the rich and di­verse Omani cul­ture and said that we have many sto­ries to tell, which can in­spire thou­sands. And, cin­ema-go­ers are rapidly grow­ing in num­bers, too. But he said that though we have amaz­ing scener­ies and cul­tural con­text, we still lack ex­perts and sup­port to drive these sto­ries to fruition.

“For many peo­ple in the re­gion, cre­ative in­dus­try is con­sid­ered a hobby, it could be a craft for when you are free, but the per­cep­tion makes the trade less val­ued,” said Mohammed. “We need to change that per­cep­tion by rais­ing aware­ness,” he added.

The pro­duc­tion house’s main goal is to be a ma­jor film pro­duc­tion house that pro­duces and makes Omani movies that will be of in­ter­na­tional stan­dard and get the op­por­tu­nity to be pre­viewed and cel­e­brated at cine­mas, and to also cre­ate a base for cin­ema pro­duc­tion in Oman. Given what I’ve seen from them, their dream is soon to be­come a re­al­ity.

Akkasa is cur­rently one of the most talked about pro­duc­tion houses in town, and that is a liv­ing proof that a film in­dus­try can thrive in Oman, if there’s enough re­sources and sup­port. With such imag­i­na­tive minds’ full cre­ative juice, their fu­ture projects are ought to be noth­ing short of stun­ning.

— salim@time­so­fo­man.com

*Fol­low Akkasa on In­sta­gram for lat­est up­dates on their projects and films: @Akkasafilms

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Mohammed Al Harthy

Film Di­rec­tor Mustafa Al Lawati

Film Edi­tor Salim Al Harbi

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