Israeli diplomatic circles were rocked last month by the surprise news that an Israeli diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi — an idea that for years has seemed as improbable as flamingos on the North Pole — was set to open as early as next year. The team of attaches will officially be part of Abu Dhabi’s Intl. Renewable Energy Agency and will be on the ground on in the UAE to deal with climate and conservation issues. Nevertheless, the official presence of Israeli diplomats in the heart of the Gulf marks a significant shift in the region’s relationship with the Jewish State, and begs the question: with energy partnerships between the Middle East’s two most powerful players today, could film and TV alliances lie in wait tomorrow?
“Financially, it’s in the common interest of both sides,” says Nirit Anderman, a film reporter for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. Pointing out that Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai all have deep pockets and an interest in exactly the kind of cutting-edge, hyper-successful formats that Israel churns out on a regular basis, she says that a union of the two regions no longer feels nearly as far-fetched as it once did.
Some Israeli production houses even point out that Israeli and the Gulf are already working together, if indirectly.
Cynthia Kennedy, sales director for Keshet Intl., the global production and distribution arm of Israeli media giant Keshet, handles all sorts of deals between Gulf nations and partners across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It’s the nature of today’s global TV business, she says.
“Great storytelling and entertainment know no geographical boundaries,” she tells Variety. “There is a wealth of production talent and resources in the Gulf area and we look forward to strengthening our ties in this valuable market.”
While most Gulf players in film and TV remain tight-lipped about the potential for teaming up with the Jewish State, Israeli film funds and directors say it’s just a matter of time.
“The Gulf countries are well-developed and very keen to invest in art and culture,” says Dorit Inbar, who heads up Israel’s New Fund for Cinema and Television. “Today Israel has peace with two Arab countries, and different connections around the Mediterranean. I’m absolutely sure that in 20 years the filmmaking industry will be open enough to allow such a cooperation.”