“EN FRANCE NOUS N’AVONS PAS DE PETROLE, MAIS NOUS AVONS DES IDEES” – Famous Tagline in French Ads during the Oil Crisis of the 70’s
When Iran was begining to draw Hollywood investments in the mid sixties with films like the Invincible Six and the Opium Connection starring Hollywood Stars and rising Iranian actors like Behrouz Vossoughi and Malek Mottei, little imagined that the middle East could be attractive to Hollywood. By the Mid and Late Seventies however films like Caravan starring Anthony Quinn, Jennifer O’Neill, Michael Sarrazin or the Agatha Christie screen adaptation of the Ten Little Indians proved that the Iranian landscape and local Stars could work on commercially attractive projects. The Islamic Revolution and cultural purge that followed 1979, put an end to Hollywood Presence in Iran.
The potential Iranian market for Middle East co-productions with Hollywood Studio’s has since been superseded by co-productions with North African Film Studio’s like in Morroco or Tunisia where such Blockbuster Epics like Ridley Scott’s Gladiator,Kingdom of Heavan and the George Lucas Star Wars 2nd Trilogy or Oliver Stone’s Alexander have been shot. More Recently since the Sept 11th Tragedy and the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hollywood has been focusing on the Middle East as a potential for stories like The Kite Runner, Syriana, or Redacted.
Ironically despite the general Anti American rhetoric of local powers and groups in the Middle East, Affairs go on and the Arab film industry is drawing investors and in turn investing in Hollywood very much like the Japanese did in the 1990’s by implanting Sony on American territory or when France’s Vivendi tried however unsuccessfully to sign a golden deal with Universal Studio’s with the help of the French Private Canal Plus TV Studio. The Cinema and access to online distribution of films through Youtube and other streaming technologies has truly turned the film industry into a global market of oppurtunities. An industry where “Money” is often the key player and major argument in signing production deals and not necessarily Art and Talent even if they are not necessarily incompatible with the business. What is certain however is that Films are also a formidable medium to showcase culture. European Cinema with its ups and lows has been competing with the Hollywood global supremacy throughout its history but it has also been co producing many films with American Studios. A trend that has become popular with such director/producers like Luc Besson or Jean Jacques Jeunet. Production wise The National Frontiers are dissappearing thanks to such co-productions but it is clear that any nation’s financial grip or influence on Hollywood productions can also serve the cultural policies, prestige and outreach of the countries involved. In particular the Arab and local muslim regimes will be benefitting from such a Golden deal as the one signed in Abu Dhabi.
If Iranian films and filmmakers like Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf or Ghobadi critically acclaimed and have a genuine following, this cannot alas be said for their Box Office Potential ( no more than American independant films like those presented at Sundance albeit a few rare exceptions like Little Miss Sunshine that got Oscar nods). The Iranian film industry was certainly paving the road to more co-productions with European and Hollywood Studio’s where Film remain a reference of quality and Western craftmanship for more than a century. Unfortunately the Iranian film industry seems to have lost at least on this front to the Arab World …
If you are worried about why the Prince of Persia may be shot in Arab or muslim countries instead of Iran ? Well I suggest you to ask Mr. Ahmadinejad and his brilliant cohort of cultural advisors …
In the meantime read the Report by Variety below.
VIVE LE CINEMA ! Malgré Tout ! … ;0(
James Bond, Rocky, and the Pink Panther will all find homes away from home in Abu Dhabi as part of a multi-billion-dollar development project announced Wednesday by the studio and Sorough Real Estate. The 150-acre “entertainment destination,” which will include hotels, shops, restaurants and themed attractions, is due to open in 2012. MGM will receive licensing fees from the complex while the United Arab Emirates developer will finance, construct and manage the property, MGM said.
Lion leaps on $1 bil project By By Darius KADIVAR
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