Behind The Scenes with Nayla Al Khaja
The UAE’s first female Emirati film director on the ups and downs of the job and her next big project.
By: Joumana Saad
It’s summertime in Dubai, and the scorching hot streets of Media City are pretty much empty. But for many like Nayla Al Khaja, this quiet period is an ideal time to plan upcoming projects. Fast forward to the lead up to the film festival season and her schedule is beyond hectic. The founder of D-Seven Motion Pictures is currently working on her next film. It’s a touching tale of an Emirati mother and son and is set to take place in Sharjah. She spends much of her time liaising with local authorities, freelancers and advertisers.
The other major part of her job is to manage all events and activities at The Scene, which is Dubai’s first film club. Every month, film directors from around the world are invited to the Emirate to show their films. Audiences are welcome to attend free of charge and even have the chance to have a Q & A session with directions following the screening. The objective, she says, is to help build promote the art of film in the country and at the same time create an eco-system of film enthusiasts and grow support from local businesses.
The UAE has turned a corner when it comes the level and quality of films that are being produced here, and it has also becoming a hub for the region’s film directors. Yet there remain several challenges for those like Nayla. The most difficult part of her job, she says, is the ability to find the right talent and attract the needed financial support from investors. At the same time, international attention has led many well-known directors to choose the UAE as the backdrop for their films.
This year, D-seven celebrates its eighth anniversary, and the time has flown right by for Nayla. She started out at a time when the industry was in its infancy. Some of her first short-films shed light on a number of serious issues that led to important debates at home.
What she loves the most about her job is the ability to try new things, travel to new places and change perceptions along the way. Her ultimate goal, to make the transition into a studio, producing multiple feature films every year.