UAE-based Mirage Holdings is about to move into pre-production of its first feature, “Antar: The Black Knight,” with a goal of launching production in October in Abu Dhabi and Morocco.

Mirage is in talks with directors and actors for “Antar,” based on the life of the 6th century warrior and explorer. The story begins in Liwa (now in Abu Dhabi) and follows Antar’s adventures along the Silk Road and deep into China.

Mirage is planning to make the live-action pic as the first of a trilogy and has budgeted $120 million, according to VP of production Din Altit, a former Sony Pictures exec. He noted that the pic is aimed at portraying a positive and engaging picture of an Arab hero.

“Antar: The Black Knight” was penned by Michelle Nickelson, president and chief operating officer of Mirage, and Jeff Byers. Nickelson and her father Carl, who was chief exec of U.S.-based visual effects studio Manex Entertainment, set up Mirage Holdings in the United Arab Emirates as an umbrella company (Daily Variety, Aug. 7, 2006).

Mirage also said it’s working with BIG Animation, a division of Reliance Media, to produce 26 episodes of “Antar of Liwa,” an animated series for international TV that will be inspired by the live-action films. Additionally, it’s signed a deal with Chimera Design to develop an entertainment destination for the Middle East based on the “Antar” films.

Mirage is funded by MENA Cinefinance UAE and has offices in Abu Dhabi and Los Angles and controls 460 acres of land on which it is building studios. Project financing is through Mirage’s new fund, MENA CineFinances.