The recent U.S.-brokered agreement under which Israel established diplomatic relations with two Arab states has rapidly prompted formal film industry ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Abu Dhabi Film Commission, the Israel Film Fund and Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film & Television School (pictured) on Monday announced a wide-ranging agreement with the stated goal of “promoting tolerance, education and developing a deeper cultural understanding between the Emirati and Israeli people,” they said in a statement.
The Israel/UAE agreement currently comprises bilateral workshops and training initiatives and also involves plans for a regional film festival “which will rotate between Abu Dhabi and Israel,” and showcase Emirati and Israeli productions and co-productions, the statement said.
Training programs are being set up for filmmakers from both countries to participate in “intensive script co-development workshops” with the aim of spawning film and television co-productions between Israel and the UAE.
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The statement added that an Israel/UAE co-production agreement is expected to be announced soon.
The agreement is not likely to sit well with Palestinian filmmakers who have close ties to the region.
In a separate but related development, it was announced last week that long-running Israeli soccer docu-reality series Goalstar, produced by ADD Content, will film its upcoming season in the United Arab Emirates, becoming the first Israeli television production shot in the UAE.
Commenting on the partnership between Abu Dhabi and Israel, Mohamed Al Mubarak, who is chairman of UAE state media entities twofour54 and Image Nation Abu Dhabi, said the pact will strengthen “cultural ties between our creative industries as well as support the development of Abu Dhabi’s film and TV sector through the creation of new opportunities for collaboration.”
Israel Film Fund executive director Lisa Shiloach-Uzrad in the statement called the agreement “a wonderful opportunity for collaboration through which we can learn, create and become closer to our neighbors in the Middle East.”
“I am sure we will find many ways to work together on a creative and professional level to the great benefit of both sides,” she added.
Normalization between Israel and some Arab states has been underway for some time as reflected by popular recent Arab TV series “Umm Haroun” (“The Mother of Aaron”), toplining popular Kuwaiti actress Hayat Al Fahad (pictured) who plays a Jewish midwife, and also featuring the character of a rabbi, called Rabbi David.
The controversial show, produced by UAE-based broadcaster MBC, marks the first Arab production depicting the lives of Jews and their relations with Muslims.