The classically exotic Middle Eastern city of Abu Dhabi is rich in film locations just waiting to be used by international film production companies. Places like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Emirate Palace and Yas Island are perfect for setting the scene in a movie and telling audiences straight away that the film is set in the Middle East.
Until recently Dubai has been the most popular choice for international film locations. Films like Syriana with George Clooney and Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise have used Dubai as their location shoot. Dubai has its own Studio City to promote Emirate film production. Now Abu Dhabi is immerging as the "new big thing" in Middle Eastern film locations.
Abu Dhabi itself has a blossoming film industry with the pioneering film makers having the nickname "Emerging Emiratis". The first Emirati feature film was Al-Hilm in 2007 but the UAE has produced more short films and documentaries than full length feature films. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have annual International Film Festivals.
A Film Commission was set up to encourage filming in the Emirate but before its establishment it was quite hard for producers to get filming permission in Abu Dhabi.
Foreign film producers need to respect the local customs and the scripts must not depict nudity or immorality. The Abu Dhabi Film Commission offers international productions a 30% rebate on production expenses.
Some foreign films are filmed on location in Abu Dhabi rather than actually being set in the Emirate. The country is a good filming location due to the fine weather and safe, exotic, Middle Eastern scenery. Film makers can use the seascape, desert and ultra-modern urban setting of Abu Dhabi.
South Asian, India's Bollywood and Pakistan's Lollywood use Abu Dhabi more as a film location than Western and Hollywood productions. The 2011 Indian film Dam 99 and the 2002 Dil Vil Pyar Vyar were filmed in Abu Dhabi among many other Indian productions.
The Kingdom 2007
This film was on location in Abu Dhabi for 8 days filming and the Emirate Palace was featured. It stared Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Chris Cooper and the film was set in Saudi Arabia. Location filming took place in Arizona USA, Mexico and in Abu Dhabi. The film told the tale of FBI agents investigating a bombing.
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
This blockbuster staring Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz took up the Abu Dhabi Film Commission's offer of a cash rebate and filmed part of the movie here. The action packed film races from location to location around the globe but Abu Dhabi was among the scenes. The scene was filmed in Abu Dhabi and set in Abu Dhabi.
Sex in the City 2 (2010)
This romantic comedy was the sequel to Sex in the City 1 and the highly successful TV series. Although the film is set in Abu Dhabi, with scenes in luxury hotels and the desert it was filmed in Morocco and New York as the Abu Dhabi authorities would not give them permission to film. The Abu Dhabi authorities refused permission to film in Abu Dhabi because of the immoral content of the film. So the movie ended up being filmed in Morocco for 6 weeks.
Other Filming in Abu Dhabi
Although the international feature film industry is only just discovering Abu Dhabi several TV series, documentaries and short films have been filmed here including:
Top Gear (TV Series) 2002
In this TV series which examines all things to do with cars, the celebrity host Jeremy Clarkson travels to Abu Dhabi to test out the fastest racing car ever made , the Lamborghini Murcielago.
Abu Dhabi 2011 (Short Film) 2011
This short was highly successful at International Film Festivals. It tells the story of Abu Dhabi's meteoric development from a small desert village to the mega metropolis it is today.