Cinema of the United Arab Emirates
United Arabic Emirates film clapperboard.png
No. of screens255 (2010)[1]
 • Per capita3.2 per 100,000 (2010)[1]
Number of admissions (2011)[2]
Gross box office (2012)[3]
Total$119 million

Cinema of the United Arab Emirates began with a number of feature films that were broadcast on national television since the late 1980s.

In 2002, Emirates Film Competition was formed which influenced a generation of Emirati filmmakers to explore the short film format. The competition was merged onto Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which would eventually be shut down along with the Gulf Film Festival. However, the Dubai International Film Festival was founded in 2004 and continues its run till date. In April 2018, it was announced that the 15th edition of the festival would be postponed to 2019, re-launching as a bi-annual festival after running annually for 14 years[4]

In 2005, The Dream became the first Emirati film to be distributed in cinemas across UAE. Meanwhile, the UAE began to attract South Asian films and television serials, mainly Bollywood and Lollywood productions.

In addition, UAE has a film studio (Dubai Studio City) which has been built to cultivate film making in the region. The Dubai Film and TV Commission (DTFC) which was established in line with Executive Council Decision 16 of 2012 is the sole authority to issue film shooting permits in Dubai. In Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Film Commission issues shooting permits to production companies that hold a valid media zone authority trade license.[5]

In 2008, Majid Abdulrazak became the first Emirati filmmaker to adapt a book into a film based on Wilfred Thesiger's Arabian Sands.

In 2009, the second edition of the Gulf Film Festival saw the premiere of two Emirati feature films for the first time. The Circle, by filmmaker and actor Nawaf Al-Janahi, told the story of Ibrahim, a poet and journalist who captures a thief and finds himself changing lives with him. Director and novelist Saleh Karama also showcased his first feature, Henna, in which the title character's mother is sick, and her frequent fits have led to a divorce; fatherless Henna has to find a way to relate to her new father-figure, a Bedouin relative who arrives from the desert with his camels to visit the family.

The sixth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival in 2009 featured further screenings of The Circle and the premiere of the multilingual City of Life by Emirati director Ali F. Mostafa, which went on to achieve general release in UAE cinemas in the following year.

Nawaf Al-Janahi's film Sea Shadow was released on 17 November 2011.[6] It came out on DVD on 25 September 2013.

The first Emirati Science Fiction feature-length film called Aerials was released on 16 June 2016.[7][8] Directed by S.A.Zaidi and produced by Ghanem Ghubash, Aerials was released in UAE simultaneously with Independence Day 2 as a contrast of both being alien invasion films.[9]

The UAE also has its own independent cinemas such as The Scene Club and Cinema Akil, founded in 2007 and 2014 respectively. Cinema Akil became the first permanent independent cinema house in September 2018.[10]

Abu Dhabi's Environment Agency's Year of Zayed environmental documentary Zayed's Antarctic Lights which chronicled the adventure of the agency's Team Zayed to Antarctica, where they sent a message to the world in solar lights, won a Bronze World Medal at the New York TV & Film Awards.[11]

Abu Dhabi's Environment Agency's 2021 environmental documentary Wild Abu Dhabi: The Turtles of Al Dhafra which showcases the turtles of Al Dhafra and the agency's conservation programme, won a finalist award in the 2021 New York Festivals TV and Film Awards.[12][13]

Emirati films

Year Title Director Actors Genre Notability
1988 Aber Sabeel Ali Al Abdool Aisha Abdulrahman, Bilal Abdullah Drama First Emirati film
1990 Alteen Alakheer Jassim Jaber TV film
1996 Makan Fil Qalb Mohammed Najib Mohammed Al Amri, Moza Al Mazrooei, Sameera Ahmad War, Drama
2005 The Dream Hani Al Shaibani Nawaf Al Janahi, Ali Al Jabri, Abdulla Hassan Ahmed Drama First Emirati film to release across UAE
2006 Tarab Fashion Mohamed Daham Hassan Ballam, Mayssa Maghrebi Comedy
2006 Haneen Mohammad Al-Traifi Fatima Abdulrahim, Moza AlMazrooei, Yalda Drama
2006 Eqaab Majid Abdulrazak Majid Albulrazak, Haifa Hussain, Mohammad Al Janahi Drama
2008 Arabian Sands Majid Abdulrazak Abdullah Al Tararwah, Ali Tamimi, Majid Abdulrazak, Murad Fakhri Baluchi Biographical, Adventure Based on the book of the same name
2009 The Circle Nawaf Al Janahi Abdulmohsin Al Nimer, Ali Al Jabri, Nawaf Al Janahi Crime, Drama
2009 Henna Saleh Karama Gazelle, Ayisha Hammed, Salem Obaid Al Raihi Drama
2009 The Return of Umm Al Duwais Juma Al Sahli Sameera Ahmad, Sogha Horror TV film
2010 City of Life Ali F. Mostafa Habib Ghuloom, Saoud Al Kaabi Drama
2011 Sea Shadow Nawaf Al Janahi Neven Madi, Omar Almulla Drama
2013 Bani Adam Majid Abdulrazak Abdulla Abdulaziz, Alaa Shaker Drama
2013 Hob Malaki Jamal Salem Habib Ghuloom, Mansoor Al Feeli, Huda Salah Romance
2013 Djinn Tobe Hooper Abdulla Al Junaibi, Saoud Al Kaabi Horror
2014 Grandmother's Farm Ahmed Zain Saeed Al Sharyani, Khalid Alnuaimi, Yaser Al Neyadi Horror, Comedy
2014 From A to B Ali F. Mostafa Fahad Albutairi, Shadi Alfons Drama, Comedy
2014 Sundress Saeed Salmeen Al Murry Habib Ghuloom, Marrai Alhalyan, Neven Madi, Ahmad Abdullah, Sophia Jawad Drama
2014 Abood Kandaishan Fadel AlMheiri Abdulrahman Al Nakhi, Sawsan Saad Comedy
2014 Dolphins Waleed Al Shehhi Reem Erhama, Khalid Ameen Adventure, Drama
2015 Zinzana Majid Alansari Ali Suliman, Saleh Bakri Thriller
2015 Going to Heaven Saeed Salmeen Al Murry Jumaa Al Zaabi, Fatima Al Taei Drama
2015 Grandmother's Farm 2 Ahmed Zain Saeed Al Sharyani, Khalid Alnuaimi, Yaser Al Neyadi Horror, Comedy
2015 Abdullah Humaid Al Suwaidi Mansoor Al Feeli, Mohammed Al Hammadi, Fatima Al Taei, Alaa Shaker Drama
2016 Dhay Fe Abu Dhabi Rakan Hassan Hosny, Ahmed Saleh Comedy
2016 Aerials S A Zaidi Saga Alyasery, Mansoor Al Feeli Sci-Fi First Emirati sci-fi film
2016 Hajwala Ali Bin Muttar, Ibrahim Bin Mohammed Anwar Aljabri, Sawsan Saad Action
2016 A Drop of Blood Nasser Al Tamimi Habib Ghuloom, Amal Mohammed Horror
2016 Bilal: A New Breed of Hero Ayman Jamal, Khurram Alavi Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jacob Latimore, Andre Robinson, Ian McShane Animation
2017 The Worthy Ali F. Mostafa Ali Suliman, Habib Ghuloom Action, Thriller
2017 Kart Ahmar Nasser Al Tamimi Bilal Abdulla, Badria Ahmed Sports
2017 Dhay Fe Thailand Rakan Hassan Hosny, Ahmed Saleh Comedy
2017 A Tale of Shadows Tariq Alkazim Almer Agmyren, Dijana Divjak, Chuka Ekweogwu Thriller
2017 Lisa Ahmed Zain Ayman Khadim, Nasser Al Dhanhani, Ali Al Shehhi Comedy
2017 Only Men Go to the Grave Abdulla Al Kaabi Abdelreza Nasari, Hebe Sabah, Awatif Salman, Saleema Yaqoub Drama Iraqi-language film
2018 Awar Qalb Jamal Salem Abdulla Zaid, Juma Ali, Neven Madi, Marwa Rateb Comedy
2018 Fan of Amoory Saeed Salmeen Al-Murry Jumaa Al Zaabi, Mansoor Al Feeli, Alaa Shaker Sports
2018 Wesalna Wela B'adna Aisha Al Zaabi Ahmed Abdulrazaq, Fatima Al Hosani, Mariam Sultan Comedy
2018 Our Argentinian Maid Hamed Saleh Ahmed Ahdy, Ahmed Al-Rekabi, Abdelrahman Al-Zaraoni Comedy
2018 Camera Abdulla Al Junaibi Humaid Alawadi, Yaser Alneyadi, Omar Almulla Thriller
2018 Freej Al Taibeen Ahmed Zain Ali Al Shehhi, Huda Alghanim, Khaled Al Nuaimi Comedy
2018 Until Midnight Tariq Al Kazim Ahmed Khamis Ali, Chuka Ekweogwu Thriller
2018 Hajwala 2 Ibrahim bin Mohamed Hussain Al Hosani, Ali Abdulla Al Marzooqi, Abdulla Al Youssif Action
2018 Shabab Sheyab Yasir Al-Yasiri Saad Al Faraj, Mansoor Al Feeli, Marie Al Halyan Comedy
2018 11 Days Sudheer Konderi Habib Ghuloom, Ahmed Al Hashimi Family
2018 Back to the Wild Veronia Iocono Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Shaikha Al Dhaheri Environmental Documentary
2018 Zayed's Antarctic Lights Winston Cowie Mariam Al Qassimi, Rashed Al Zaabi, Winston Cowie, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Jane Goodall, Robert Swan. Environmental Documentary Bronze World Medal New York Festivals TV & Film Awards
2019 Safar Edtirari Nasser Al Tamimi Habib Ghuloom, Badria Talbah, Fay Sharqawi, Issa Arab Comedy
2019 Ali and Alia Hussain Al Ansari Khalifa Al Bahri, Neven Madi, Sawsan Saad Drama, Romance
2019 Rashid & Rajab Mohammed Saeed Harib Marwan Abdulla, Shadi Alfons Comedy
2019 Catsaway Aisha Almaisari Animation
2019 Our Sea. Our Heritage Winston Cowie Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Shaikha Al Dhaheri Environmental Documentary
2020 A Tale of Shadows: Illusions Tariq Alkazim Chuka Ekweogwu,Robert Cristian Trif Suspense Drama Feature Film (Pre-Production)
2021 Wild Abu Dhabi: The Turtles of Al Dhafra Winston Cowie H.E Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, Hind Al Ameri, Maitha Mohamed Al Hameli, Ibrahim Bugla, Ahmed Esmaeil Al Hashmi Environmental Documentary 2021 Finalist - New York Festivals TV and Film Awards

Films shot in the United Arab Emirates

Emirati directors

See also


  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure - Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Table 11: Exhibition - Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  3. ^ "International Box Office: 13 Hot Emerging Markets". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  4. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (19 April 2018). "Dubai Film Festival Cancels Next Edition, Ends Existing Format".
  5. ^ "Filming in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Overseas". 22 September 2019.
  6. ^ Article about Sea Shadow in The National newspaper, 15 May 2012
  7. ^ "UAE sci-fi thriller Aerials flies into cinemas".
  8. ^ "Aerials (Arabic)".
  9. ^ "Aerial assault: new Emirati sci-fi drama invades cinemas".
  10. ^ "Cinema Akil gets a permanent home". 27 May 2018.
  11. ^ "EAD documentary wins World Medal at New York Festivals Awards". wam. Retrieved 2020-06-14.
  12. ^ Cowie, Winston (2021-02-17), Wild Abu Dhabi: The Turtles of Al Dhafra (Short), Hind Al Ameri, Ibrahim Bugla, Winston Cowie, Maitha Mohamed Al Hameli, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, Mile Studios, retrieved 2021-06-12
  13. ^ "Wild Abu Dhabi The Turtles of Al Dhafra". National Geographic - Videos, TV Shows & Photos - Middle East - English. Retrieved 2021-06-12.
  14. ^ "Dam 999 movie to start shooting in Dubai Hong-kong". Archived from the original on 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2010-07-02.
  15. ^ "DAM 999, another page for the Guinness book". Archived from the original on 14 June 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.