Nayla Al Khaja dubai culture UAE film
Nayla Al Khaja, the celebrated Emirati Film Director/Producer, has successfully wrapped shooting her debut feature film 'THREE' in both Thailand and the UAE. This psychological horror film, directed and produced by Nayla Al Khaja and co-written by Ben Williams, features British actor Jefferson Hall, known for his roles in 'House of the Dragon,' 'Halloween,' and the upcoming Christopher Nolan film 'Oppenheimer.'

The talented cast also includes Faten Ahmed, Noura Alabed, UAE’s well-known veteran actor Maree Al Halyan, Mohannad Bin Huthail, and introduces Emirati actor Saud Alzarooni.

‘THREE’ unfolds in the bustling suburbs of a modern-day Middle Eastern city, where a young boy named Ahmed begins exhibiting strange behavior, eventually leading his mother, Maryam, to believe he is possessed. As the plot intensifies; Maryam races against time, seeking the help of a Western Doctor, medical professionals, and ultimately an infamous exorcist, all in an attempt to save her son.

The independent feature was shot in both Thailand and the UAE over a period of 24 days. The production was led by Producer Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki, Daniel Zirilli, Jean-Charles Levy, and Nayla Al Khaja. Serving as Executive Producers are Muna Easa Al Gurg, Jefferson Hall, Siddharth Thakker, and Rasik Thakker.

Al Khaja added: “I am honoured to have Emirates Airline supporting my debut feature film. This extraordinary step not only serves as a resounding endorsement of my artistic endeavour but demonstrates Emirates’ unwavering commitment to supporting Emirati talent and amplifying the voices of female storytellers. With their support, we embrace the collective spirit of creativity that unites a remarkable ensemble of 250 gifted artists who came together to achieve this vision.”

This film signifies a meaningful milestone in the history of UAE Arab cinema by portraying an Englishman who becomes intricately intertwined with the core of an Emirati family—a situation that is rarely depicted on film.

Al Khaja added: “I am delighted to share that the performances by Jefferson Hall and Saud Alzarooni beautifully capture the stark cultural differences and yet emphasize our shared human needs; healing, connection, and love. ‘THREE’ is a riveting cross-cultural horror film that pulsates with the mesmerizing rhythm of a foreign world.”

Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki said that: “Nayla’s skill and take on storytelling is a good break from the norm of what constitutes as both an Emirati and an Arab film. It aligns with Dark Dunes Productions’ goal of doing something different and doing something good in genres that are well-loved on a global scale.”

Al Khaja added: “The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing generosity provided me with mesmerizing aerial views of Dubai, truly taking my film to new heights and adding immeasurable value to my production.”

Executive Producer, Muna Easa Al Gurg added: “As a first-time female producer in the world of Emirati film, I am here to break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and amplify diverse voices. I believe in the power of storytelling to inspire change and create a more inclusive industry. Nayla Al Khaja’s talent stood out from the beginning when I encountered her short: The Shadow. Through our work, I strive to share untold Emirati narratives with the world and empower underrepresented communities. Together, we can build a platform for local cinema and pave the way for a future where every voice is heard and celebrated.”

Film Producer, Jean Charles said: “I love finding new voices from places where ground root cinema hasn’t been explored internationally, I think with THREE it’s a culture that’s underrepresented in film and I believe it will find its space in this world and I’m so excited to be part of this film. Hoping that it would act as a catalyst for many films from Dubai for the rest of the world to see. THREE captures not just the skyscrapers and aesthetics of the city but also the soul of its people and its diversity and that’s what makes it special.” Currently in post-production, Nayla Al Khaja’s feature film ‘THREE’ promises to deliver an enthralling cinematic experience. Additionally, the filmmaker is already working on her ambitious next project, ‘BAAB,’. The music for ‘BAAB’ will be composed by the two-time Oscar winner, music director A. R. Rahman (known for his work on “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours”). The shooting for ‘BAAB’ is scheduled to commence in March 2024 in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.

About Nayla Al Khaja

Nayla Al Khaja is the first female Film Director in the United Arab Emirates. She brings a wealth of experience and cultural knowledge to national and international projects. Nayla is committed to telling stories that are true, authentic and uninhibited. She has been a top-tier speaker at the London Speakers Bureau, constantly advocating for women’s voices and presence in the film world. Her knowledge of Gulf dialects and five international languages provides her with a unique advantage when facilitating complex and sensitive projects both regionally and globally. Having run a Production company for over 15 years, Nayla has a full 360-degree perspective on requirements to deliver a successful production in addition to an appreciation for both the creative and fiscal.

Nayla has also directed many TV commercials for international brands such as Mercedes, Nike, Nestlé, Neutrogena and Nivea, to name but a few in addition to high-profile clients such as Annie Leibovitz and Roger Federer. She was also appointed as the Behind-The-Scenes Director on the mega-budget film Star Trek 3, by the Dubai Government.

Nayla’s most recent accolades and awards include:

  • She is the sole Emirati female director with two films currently streaming on Netflix world-wide
  • Top 50 most powerful personalities in Arab Cinema by Variety
  • Top 100 most powerful Arab under 40 by Arabian Business
  • Visionary of the Year Award at the Arabian Business Awards
  • Businesswomen of the Year – Gulf Business Awards 2020
  • Black Swan Award for Women Empowerment – Asia One 2019
  • Top four Emirati women listed in Forbes – September 2019
  • Entrepreneur of the Year during the Gulf Business Award 2017

Nayla currently has two running titles on Netflix worldwide – The Shadow and Animal

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