The British-born Yemeni filmmaker Bader Ben Al Hirsi is currently in the pre-production stage of his debut feature film Hadeqet Al Taous (Peacock Garden), according to the Yemen Observer.
The feature film is to be shot in Yemen later this summer and will be the first-ever Yemeni feature film.
“This is a very exciting time,” says the 33-year-old director. “I have worked on numerous projects having to do with various different parts of the world, but I am always most excited when my work has to do with an Arab country and particularly Yemen.”
Hirsi told the Yemen Observer that his country had faced some very damaging adverse publicity in the international press ranging reports on kidnappings and bombings to the release of what he called the “racist” Hollywood blockbuster Rules of Engagement.
“The recent adverse publicity that Yemen has received in the international media makes me more determined to show the world the true riches of my country,” said Hirsi.
“I have made extensive tours with my films trying to show the West a different side of Yemen, and I hope my work has helped to make a difference,” he added.
Hirsi has been very busy trying to defend his country and to help promote its positive image. “Although I was born in London and lived all my life in the United Kingdom, Yemen will always be my country and I am very proud of being an Arab and a Muslim” said Hirsi. “For this reason, I want to devote my work to focus on the Arab World and of course on Islam.”
Hirsi is very concerned about the growing fear of Islam in the international community and devotes his time to helping to correct this dangerous image.
“It is important that Arab and Muslim filmmakers try to help the West to understand our culture and heritage,” said Hirsi, because “it is obvious that very few non-Muslims and non-Arabs really understand our world, so I believe that God has given me this gift and drive to help my people.”
Unfortunately, things are not as straightforward as they seem; although Hirsi managed to generate a lot of interest from foreign companies who can help finance his debut feature film, he now faces the dilemma of having to raise at least 30 percent of the film’s budget from Yemen in order for it to officially be a “Yemeni” feature film.
“I feel like I’m really stuck” said the director. “The budget of the film is really quite low by international film standards – the film will be a Yemeni-British co-production with most of the crew and post-production taking place in London. But for it to be a Yemeni film, I will need to raise money from Yemen and the Arab World, otherwise it will be a foreign film shot in Yemen, but not a Yemeni film.”
The film will be in Yemeni Arabic and use Yemeni actors, and will be filmed entirely on location in Yemen.
“This is a dream come true,” said Hirsi, “but there is still a lot of work to be done and especially on the fundraising side.”
Other projects that Hirsi is currently working on with his production company Felix Films include a documentary on Queen Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba, and a series on the history of Arabs in Andalusia.
“I could spend the rest of my life doing projects that focus on Islam and the rich and diverse culture and heritage of the Arab World, and God will make the path easier for me.”
Hirsi spends most of his time in either London and Sanaa. The talented filmmaker is ready to provide the world with a wealth of projects, from feature films to documentaries, that will make any Arab and Muslim very proud.
“The problem is, I can’t do all this on my own, and the best solution would be partial funding from the Arab World. The West will not fund projects that are aimed at promoting Arab and Islamic culture. Unfortunately, the majority of Arabs fail to understand the commercial possibilities of an Arab film industry that can transcend all cultures and languages – the world is opening up and a united Arab film industry needs to be developed on a global scale. But this will obviously take time and my priority at the moment is to make films through Felix Films that will help open doors for other Arab filmmakers and create a more international audience for Arab films. But before I can do this, I’m still searching for Arab funders and investors who understand the importance of our work and who are consequently ready to help.”
Hirsi has interested investors from the United Kingdom, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Sweden who are all willing to raise the final 70 percent of the feature film’s budget, but before they give the go-ahead, Bader needs to raise the 30 percent of the budget from the Yemen and the Arab World – Albawaba.com