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Saudi film producer takes on world cinema | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ibrahim Dashishah in Geneva. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Ibrahim Dashishah in Geneva. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Ibrahim Dashishah in Geneva. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Young Saudi businessman Ibrahim Dashishah has embarked on his filmmaking career in world cinema with a determination to create movies “that have a humane character and carry reformative messages in the English language.” In less than a year, Dashishah has produced two films: Hedda Gabler, based on Henrik Ibsen’s renowned play of the same name, and Urban Hymn, which will take part in the BFI London Film Festival this October. “My objective is to convey positive messages to our societies as I have found films to be the best tool to do so. I’m not one to run after fame or someone who likes to show off, instead my job has clear educational goals.”

Nonetheless, Dashishah does say he would like to be part of filmmaking history, “cinema is my big love. At the age of eighteen, when I won the Western Province karate championship title in Saudi Arabia, it was my dream to be an action movie superstar like Bruce Lee. I always believed that sport carried a major educational message for youths, and I still hold this to be true. However, later on, I was preoccupied with studying and then business, but the cinema dream continued to haunt me.” Today, having made it as a successful businessman, Dashishah has been able to enter the film arena by establishing his own production company Dashishah Global Film Production based in Geneva, which he plans to move to London soon.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Dashishah explained why he chose world cinema, rather than Arabic cinema, as a starting point in his movie career. “There have been attempts made by celebrated Arab film producers and filmmakers to take their films to international horizons; this includes Moustapha Al-Akkad in his two films Lion of the Desert and the The Message and Youssef Chahine in many of his movies, all of which resonated extensively across the world but did not produce earnings to help them continue with their production, nor did their films have a considerable impact on a Western audience.”

“If I started my career with Arabic film production, our work would remain limited to Arab audiences, and the world would hear nothing about us as we would not be able to reach a Western audience. In Western or world cinema, however, we are able to reach both Western and international audiences, as well as our Arab audiences. In order to achieve this, we must be precise and especially concerned with the film’s theme, script, production and techniques. This is to say that we must not produce a dull Western film that does not merit screening in Western movie theaters or does not take part in international festivals.”

Dashishah went on to say that Arabic cinema does not make earnings that can rival that of any international film. “The earnings of all movie theaters together across the Arab world, if screening a major international film, would yield a maximum of half a million US dollars, whereas European and American movie theaters can yield hundreds of millions of US dollars when screening the same film. In fact, Arab ticket windows are not put on the world cinema map, and so international filmmakers do not take them into consideration.”

“As an Arab film producer, I want to show the world that the extremism or backwardness they see in the Arab world is not something that is prevalent; extremists are a minority compared to a majority of talented youths and innovators in the areas of arts, sports, culture, science and literature. If we succeed in accomplishing this through world cinema and in speaking the same language spoken by the West, everything else will be within reach for us.”

He went on to admit that he has entered the world of cinema via a difficult route. “I’m aware of this, but I enjoy challenges and I don’t like taking the easy option as this does not lead to significant or considerable results. If I succeed in world cinema, then local cinema will be something that is easy at a later stage.”

Speaking of his film production experience so far, the businessman who chairs the managing board of DG Investment Group based in Switzerland, said “Only three months after the company’s establishment, we produced Hedda Gabler. The film is intended to be shown on television, which we managed to easily market at the Cannes film festival and then sold to a German TV channel, something that marked a successful and encouraging beginning for us.”

“Following Cannes, we searched for a script for a feature film. Seven scripts were presented to us, and a specialized committee studied them carefully, and we eventually chose Urban Hymn by Nick Moorcroft.” Urban Hymn was taken on by world famous British director Michael Caton-Jones. Letitia Wright co-stars in the film with Shirley Henderson, Isabella Laughland and Steven Mackintosh. Dashishah and celebrated director Anwar Qawadri are both executive producers. “We chose a cast of young actors, not superstars, as seen in the two young heroes, as we sought to make the viewer focus on the message the film is trying to convey. The message is an instructive one that says music is an important tool for guiding and rescuing youths from trouble.” The film was created on a small budget and is currently in the post-production stage.

“Had there been actresses in the film who relied only on their beauty and elegance, it would not have been different from any other film. What concerns me is that our message gets out… I have a very clear conscience, even if the film does not yield the desired revenues.”

As part of his company’s support for young people, Dashishah has awarded prizes to young Saudi entrepreneurs as well as innovators in the areas of science, culture and arts, which he plans to implement across the Arab world. Dashishah hopes that other Arab businessmen and governments will back similar initiatives to support youth in the Middle East. “It is true that we are businessmen, but it is also true that our concern for culture, art and science is part of our pioneering and guiding trend.” Just one example of this cultural investment is Dashishah’s support of the Geneva International Book Fair, where Arabic publishers will be exhibiting.

The film producer adds, “The reason for our success is that my brother Dr. Osama and I always relied on specialists in accomplishing our work, and this principle is prevalent in all our work. We are also keen to have the right person in the right place, and this is what we did at Dashishah Global Film Production in order to avoid making a loss. One of our objectives is to make financial gains in order to continue production.”

“My objective is to produce commercial films with intellectual and artistic value. We have talented youths whom we carefully monitor and whom we will chose to star in films in the future in order to prepare them to become superstars.”