On the set of FromATo Be with Emirati director Ali Mostafa
Emirati filmmaker Ali Mostafa’s 2009 debut film CityOfLife showed life in Dubai with unflinching candour. Cameras are now rolling From AToB , a comedy drama that sees three friends mark the anniversary of a close friend’s death with a road trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut
How’s the shoot going?
Really well. Like any production there are ups and downs, but if the audience has half the fun watching it as we’re having making it, this should be a great lm.
Where did inspiration for From A To B come from?
I always wanted to make a road movie. Watching a road movie is a form of escapism. Often we want to go on these road trips ourselves but never get a chance to, so it’s nice to see other people do it in a lm. I thought the journey from Abu Dhabi to Beirut would be very exciting, both geographically and culturally.
Will you make the journey yourselves to shoot the film?
No. Making a lm is all about cheating. That’s the name of the game. We’re shooting most of the lm in Abu Dhabi and the rest in Jordan and Lebanon.
Tell us about your background.
My father is Emirati and my mother is British. I was born in London and grew up in Dubai. I returned to the UK to study at London Film School, but have been living in Dubai since.
How much does your own life inform your films?
The best form of lmmaking is to work on subjects you know really well. A lot of my characters and scenes are based
on my own experience. As a lmmaker you have to do that.
What is the biggest challenge of making films in the UAE
The main challenge has been getting funding. My first film City Of Life was released four years ago, and it’s taken me this long to make another one. To make lms here, rst we need a lm industry. Now we have production companies like Image Nation and twofour54 [backers of From A To B], it’s looking a lot more positive. This year alone, there are three features lms being worked on.
Is it more challenging to make a film in UAE
Yes, but the censors are becoming more open-minded in terms of the topics they permit. At first it was very difficult. We had to really think about what we could say. Now we have a little bit more creative freedom, and it’s going to get better with time. The censors are starting to understand that a feature film is only a movie, not a documentary.
Did you face any of those problems with City Of Life?
City Of Life was about the personal con icts of individuals, not about the UAE. I wasn’t saying that everyone in Dubai goes out clubbing and drinking. The lm attracted controversy because it was the rst time UAE nationals were portrayed in that light. It was something new and people found that hard to digest. Now people are starting to understand the power of lm to benefit society. From A To B is a lot more open than City Of Life, yet it took a year to get approval on the City Of Life script, and only a week for FromAToB. One critic described City Of Life as soulless as the city in which it unfolds”.
How would you respond to that?
It’s hard to hear that the city you grew up in is soulless. Dubai gets a lot of bashing for being fake and arti cial, just because we have some fantastic architecture.
In the 1949 film The Third Man, Orson Welles’ character says: “In Italy they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly
What’s beautiful about the UAE is we are changing so fast culturally. That brings a very interesting view in terms of art
love and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock”. Do you think the UAE need a war or revolution before it can start to produce art?
I don’t think so. What’s beautiful about the UAE is we are changing so fast culturally. We have a strong heritage of our own that is mixing with other races coming into the country. That brings a very interesting view in terms of art.
Do you see a time when the UAE can compete with other great cinema nations
Without a doubt. It’s going to happen sooner than expected.
Which directiors have most inspired you?
I grew up watching lms like ET, Jaws and Indiana Jones, so Steven Spielberg has always been an inspiration. Also directors from the Arab world like Moustapha Akkad, God rest his soul, who made The Message About The Life Of [theprophet] Mohammed [PBUH]. FromAToB will be in cinemas by the end of 2014
Which actors would you most like to work with?
The one actor I really wanted to work with was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’d also love to work with Anthony Hopkins. In terms of actresses, I think Cate Blanchett is phenomenal. I met her and she is an amazing person, so I can imagine what it would be like to work with her.
If Hollywood producers started calling, would you move to LA
I’d go there to shoot a movie, absolutely. Then I’d come back. Dubai is where my heart is.
Ali Mostafa on location shooting FromAToB