“Women are the best actors”

Says Emirati film director Nayla Al Khaja. Hanan Yehia Mulazem in conversation with Nayla on Emirati cinema and Arab women’s role in Middle Eastern cinema.


Why did you choose film-making?


I love story-telling, metaphors in language, and oil painting in visual art. The film industry, has everything I am interested in. Starting from the narrative, choosing the colors, the lighting – all play a big role in creating the scene. This field gives me all that I love, in one single frame.



What are the topics that you often choose?


When I started my career, I loved talking about social topics, such as, child harassment. I also wanted to highlight the topics that speak about children, teenagers and marriage problems. I often add a comic touch to my films to guide audiences to accept the idea.



How different is the Emirati Cinema over the last decade and now?


A big change happened in the industry of Emirati cinema, since the opening of Dubai International Film Festival in 2004. We saw a lot of Emirati directors, producers, great talent and many short films. I wish that more feature films come out from the Emirati film industry. I want to see the Emirati cinema industry as a part of Cannes film festival and Venice film festival.


How are Arabic women presented in Gulf Cinema?


Women became the part of the cinema industry much later than men be it, regional or international films. We didn’t see women as directors or in a protagonist role till only recently. I remember in one of my projects, the team was made of 88 members and only three were women. There are a lot of question marks about this field from families but we always hope for change.



Did you encounter any challenges as a woman in this field?


Of course. The chance of choosing a man for a particular role is higher than choosing a woman. It is interesting to note how women must work harder than men to get the chance to be heard. In UAE we have a cinematic move but not a movie industry, and this causes difficulty for women and men equally.


What are the things that you avoid during the shoot?


Negative vibes. Of course, there will be some tension and challenging situations, but a big no to negative vibes.



Tell us about your upcoming projects?


My upcoming film is “Al Dil” (shadow). I am really proud of it. Most of the staff is Emirati and rest are from different parts of the world. About 15 minutes of the movie, will be screened in VOX Cinemas in September 2019. Then the full movie will be shot. It is dramatic and a family film.



Who is your role model in the cinema industry?


My mentor is the legendary Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. I hugely admire Deepa Mehta who is a great fighter and director. She spent five years to make her dream come true in a film form. And Nadine Labaki who reached the Oscars and made Arab women proud.




What is your opinion of the OTT? Are you planning for any web series? 


My life dream is to direct a web series that talks about serial killers “Raya And Sakina”. I wrote a few episodes and I am waiting for good news.


Bollywood check-list

Your favorite actor?

Aamir Khan.


Your favorite actress?

Kareena Kapoor Khan.


Your favorite film?

Boot Polish (1954)


Your favorite Indian dish?

Dal, butter chicken and Naan.


The most handsome actor?

Hrithik Roshan


The most beautiful actress?

Zeenat Aman











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