“En France on n’a pas de pétrole, mais on a des idées!” -Famous French Slogan during the Oil Crisis of 1970’s
When Iran was beginning to draw Hollywood investments in the mid sixties with films like the Invincible Six and the Opium Connection starring Hollywood Stars and rising Iranian actors like Behrouz Vossoughi and Nasser Malekmotei, little imagined that the middle East could be attractive to Hollywood. By the Mid and Late Seventies however films like Caravans starring Anthony Quinn, Jennifer O'Neill, Michael Sarrazin or the Agatha Christie screen adaptation of the Ten Little Indians proved that the Iranian landscape and local Stars could work on commercially attractive projects. The Islamic Revolution and cultural purge that followed 1979, put an end to Hollywood Presence in Iran.
The potential Iranian market for Middle East co-productions with Hollywood Studio's has since been superseded by co-productions with North African Film Studio's like in Morroco or Tunisia where such Blockbuster Epics like Ridley Scott's Gladiator, Kingdom of Heavan and the George Lucas Star Wars 2nd Trilogy or Oliver Stone's Alexander have been shot. More Recently since the Sept 11th Tragedy and the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hollywood has been focusing on the Middle East as a potential for stories like The Kite Runner, Syriana, or Redacted.
Ironically despite the general Anti American rhetoric of local powers and groups in the Middle East, Affairs go on and the Arab film industry is drawing investors and in turn investing in Hollywood very much like the Japanese did in the 1990's by implanting Sony on American territory or when France's Jean Marie Messier CEO of Vivendi tried however unsuccessfully to sign a golden deal with Universal Studio's with the help of the French Private Canal Plus TV Studio. The Cinema and access to online distribution of films through Youtube and other streaming technologies has truly turned the film industry into a global market of opportunities. An industry where 'Money' is often the key player and major argument in signing production deals and not necessarily Art and Talent even if they are not necessarily incompatible with the business. What is certain however is that Films are also a formidable medium to showcase culture. European Cinema with its ups and lows has been competing with the Hollywood global supremacy throughout its history but it has also been co producing many films with American Studios. A trend that has become popular with such director/producers like Luc Besson or Jean Jacques Jeunet. Production wise The National Frontiers are disappearing thanks to such co-productions but it is clear that any nation's financial grip or influence on Hollywood productions can also serve the cultural policies, prestige and outreach of the countries involved. In particular the Arab and local muslim regimes will be benefiting from such a Golden deal as the one signed in Abu Dhabi.
If you are worried about why the Prince of Persia movie may be shot in Arab or Muslim countries instead of Iran? Well I suggest you to ask Mr. Ahmadinejad and his brilliant cohort of cultural advisors...
In the meantime read the Report by Variety below.
VIVE LE CINEMA! Malgré Tout! ...
MGM 'City' To Be Built in Abu Dhabi
James Bond, Rocky, and the Pink Panther will all find homes away from home in Abu Dhabi as part of a multi-billion-dollar development project announced Wednesday by the studio and Sorough Real Estate. The 150-acre 'entertainment destination,' which will include hotels, shops, restaurants and themed attractions, is due to open in 2012. MGM will receive licensing fees from the complex while the United Arab Emirates developer will finance, construct and manage the property, MGM said.
MGM pacts on Abu Dhabi deal
Lion leaps on $1 bil project
By ALI JAAFAR
MGM has inked a massive deal with Abu Dhabi-based real estate developer Sorouh and Jordanian animation shingle Rubicon to create an entertainment destination using MGM and Rubicon franchises.
Deal is the latest in a string of pacts between Hollywood studios and business interests in the United Arab Emirates.
The multifaceted strategic alliance, which could be worth up to $1 billion once all the projects are completed, will include retail, leisure and entertainment facilities.
Execs are also looking into creating a dedicated film and TV production fund, as well as exploring the possibility of building an animation studio in oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
Deal will likely take three to five years to complete, although the first CG concepts for the project are likely to be unveiled before the end of the year.
'We're creating something never before seen in the industry,' MGM exec veep Travis Rutherford told Daily Variety. 'It will be a unique environment.'
MGM properties such as 'The Pink Panther,' 'Rocky' and 'Stargate' are likely to figure prominently in the development -- which all involved were keen to stress will not be a theme park -- as well as animated characters such as Ben and Izzy from the Rubicon stable.
Deal follows a strategic partnership inked last June between MGM and Rubicon, the first part of which was a co-financing and co-production joint venture on 26-episode animated skein 'Pink Panther & Pals.'
Latest pact will see execs from MGM, Sorouh and Rubicon develop a range of dedicated creative content and entertainment platforms based on existing and new franchises.
'We'll be working together to develop unique content for the region,' said Rubicon chief exec Randa Ayoubi. 'We will be bringing together East and West to get the best out of both worlds. We have so many stories to tell the rest of the world and actually make money out of it.'
Rubicon has gained a reputation as one of the Middle East's foremost-animated shingles with a concerted effort to produce positive, educational entertainment to auds in the West and the Arab world using local stories and traditions. 'Ben & Izzy' is a 3-D CG skein about an American boy and an Arab one who travel through time on an archaeological expedition.
Deal involving MGM comes after other Hollywood heavyweights began a push into Mideast regions that offer opportunities for media titans.
In January, DreamWorks Animation announced a billion-dollar strategic alliance with Dubai-based real estate company Tatweer to develop a range of tourism and leisure projects. Universal, Paramount, Nickelodeon and Marvel have all planted their flags in the UAE in the past 12 months.
In October, Warner Bros. inked its own multibillion-dollar, multimedia deal with Abu Dhabi-based company Al-Dar. In addition to the now-customary real estate aspects, it also included a $500 million production fund and a $500 million videogame fund as well as coin for Arab-language features.
Abu Dhabi officials have been ramping up their cultural activities in recent months, inking mega-bucks deals to open local branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums. Lensing is also set to begin on Robert Rodriguez's 'Shorts,' the first project greenlit through the Warners Bros. fund.
MGM plans to open a Shanghai-set MGM Studio World destination in spring 2010 to coincide with the World's Fair Expo in the Chinese city.
(*) No Offense to Arabs or the Great Arab Filmmakers and professionals (Whom I also admire) is intended in this Ironic Title meant to illustrate the gap between Reality and what we Iranians ( but also in the West ) often wrongly think of our Arab neighbours due to cultural and political prejudice. But it should be added that the Reverse is Also alas often the case too. My article is first and foremost meant to underline that the Film Industry and Market is first of all an “Arena of Competition” when it comes to production and distribution of the film as a product and that our (that is our current regime in Iran) Anti Western and particularly Anti American Rhetoric added to state censorship has created a vacuum for our film industry both in terms of exportation, quality and possibility for significant co-productions. This is fortunately and obviously less the case when one considers the creative process of making a film based on mutual seduction and common interests that are shared between actors and directors of different nationalities on any given set. In regard to these observations I recommend you to read the following articles:
Lebanese authorities reverse decision to ban 'Persepolis' AFP
Iran Bans Foreign Film Stars NY Times
Binoche Femme Dangereuse ! by Darius KADIVAR
The Great Omar by Darius KADIVAR
Deneuve wants to See by Darius KADIVAR
Googoosh in Dubai: Iran pop diva longs for homeland Middle East Times
(**) Moustapha Akkad and daughter killed in Jordan Blasts (bbc)
Trailer & Opening Scene to Mustaffa Akkad’s The Message: The Story of Islam (youtube)
Trailer of on of the first Iranian co-productions with Hollywood The Opium Connection Aka The Poppy is Also a Flower (youtube)
More Recommended Reading:
Persia? Ancient Persia's Virtual Absence in Hollywood by Darius KADIVAR
The Persian Empire Strikes Back! by Darius KADIVAR
Fardin’s Western Spaghetti by Darius KADIVAR
Lesson’s From the Keeper by Darius KADIVAR
Iranian film director Parvin Ansary in Italian Cinema interviewed by Brian Appleton
NOOR Film Festival Lights Your Way to Hollywood! By Darius KADIVAR
Photo 1:title (*)
Photo 2: The late and talented Moustapha Akkad (right) directing Anthony Quinn (left) for a 2nd Time in Lion of the Desert. (**)
Photo 3: Pre-Revolution Era Hollywood Iranian Co-Productions ©pictory Iranian.com
Photo 4: He was certainly one of the first Arab film Pioneers to brilliantly introduce Hollywood concepts in Arab Cinema. Considered as the Cecile B. DeMille of Arab Cinema, Mustaffa Akkad’s tragic death due to suicide attempts by Al-Qaeda in Jordan was a sad irony. ©imdb