Emad Adeeb doesn’t do small. The hulking former journalist turned media impresario has set his sights on revitalizing Egpyt’s ailing film industry as he prepares to launch the biggest budget Egyptian film of all time, “The Yacoubian Building.”
As the CEO and driving force behind Good News Group, founded in 1988, a media empire that includes film and music production houses, two private radio channels, six publications, 12 theaters across Egypt and the Arab world’s largest Internet portal, Adeeb is the closest Egypt has to a Western-style mogul. Think Murdoch on the Nile.
The son of a celebrated scriptwriter and film producer — his father Abd El Hay Adeeb penned some 120 screenplays during his career — Adeeb made a name for himself early on in his career.
After graduating from Cairo’s prestigious Victoria College — the same school that boasts Omar Sharif as an alum — Adeeb’s big break came while still a third-year university student, landing an interview with then-Egyptian prexy Anwar Sadat.
From there a roller-coaster rise to the top saw him land jobs at some of the Arab world’s leading newspapers, including Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.
With the explosion of satellite TV in the Arab world, he launched his TV career on the Orbit satcaster, the highlight of which was a now-infamous seven-hour-long interview with Egyptian prexy Hosni Mubarak last year.
The call of cinema proved too hard to resist, however, and he resigned soon after to pursue his interests in Good News.
“I’ve been living with the cinema business all my life. It’s been my dream since I was a student to have a chance to make good films catering for local audiences, with grassroots ideas that tackle our society in the Arab world but are produced on an international scale,” says Adeeb.
Not satisfied with having broken the budget for Arab films with “Yacoubian” — at $4 million — his second venture in film production will nearly double that figure. “Halim,” a biopic of legendary Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Afez, will cost more than $6 million. Also in the pipelines is “Al-Qaeda,” charting the journey of Osama Bin Laden to becoming the world’s most hunted terrorist.
What sets Adeeb apart from some of his Egyptian counterparts is his unwillingness to settle for a local Arab audience. For much of the past year, he has toured the world’s film festivals to get a better understanding of the needs of the international film market.
AFM, Cannes and Tribeca were just a few of his pit stops.
“It’s not enough to just become a financier to produce a film. It took us two or three years to answer all the questions we had. What kinds of movies do we need to produce? What kind of quality should we demand? What are our audiences?” says Adeeb. “We were looking for the keys to open the locked doors for Egyptian movies. We have done our homework.”