Jordan has inked with the University of Southern California to set up a Mideast film school, which will be open to Arab and Israeli students.
The deal, unveiled in New York Sept. 20, was finalized following the personal intervention of Steven Spielberg, a USC trustee, with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
“When His Majesty approached me on the subject of a Jordan-based, world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel, I immediately saw the importance and significance of such a venture for the people and future of the region,” Spielberg said in a statement.
King Abdullah presided over the official unveiling in Gotham. Also in attendance were Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of USC’s School of Cinema-Television, Samer Mouasher, commissioner at Jordan’s Royal Film Commission and Israeli helmer Dan Katzir.
USC faculty and staff teams traveled to Jordan to conduct pilot programs in 2005 and 2006.
Those experiences will now be expanded into the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts, a joint venture with Jordan’s Royal Film Commission. RSICA will be a fully accredited graduate school that will offer a three-year masters of fine arts degree through advanced education in cinema, TV and a wide range of screen-based media.
It will be built in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba and work will start in early 2007, with the first classes to begin 2008.
This is the latest attempt by Jordanian authorities to develop a vibrant media and entertainment biz to compete with regional hubs in Dubai and Egypt. In 2001, Jordan Media City was launched as a private media zone with the aim of attracting regional and international media shingles.
The RSICA is another attempt to set up cross-cultural bridges between East and West in a region more commonly associated with conflict.
After helming “Munich,” Spielberg launched his own peace initiative in February when he bought 250 film cameras to be shared equally by Israeli and Palestinian kids, to encourage dialogue between the two communities. The first results of the initiative are due to be completed in the coming months.
Officials at USC expect the first class to graduate from RSICA by 2011.
“In this age of media, any culture that does not train storytellers and media makers is doomed to silence on the world stage. Not only is it important for the countries of the Middle East to tell their stories globally and regionally, but it is even more important for those of us who live outside the region to hear them,” Daley told Variety.