I have set up a google alert for "cross-cultural" and once in a while something interesting turns up. This is a story from the Khaleej Times in Dubai about a young woman film director and producer, Nayla Al Khaja, the first in her country. She grew up loving cinema because it let her see inside other cultures.
As a child I watched many films - Arabic, English and Indian films. I watched a lot of black and white Indian films like Anarkali, Boot Polish, Sindbad because my dad had a huge collection.
It helped me have a very open mind because when you are watching a film you see someone celebrate a Diwali or a Christmas. As a kid it made me curious about other cultures and opened my mind to them, that’s why I am very flexible with people.
I love the fact that life is full of life and through films you are exposed to a window to other cultures and that’s what really attracted me to it. I used to paint, do a lot of portraits of people in motion and that was where I fell in love with motion and film making.
When asked if she will go the way of Hollywood or Bollywood, she replies,
Bollywood makes more sense, as I speak Urdu and I am very close to that genre. I think it’s a giant market and if we do a cross-cultural film with locals and Indians, which has never been done before it will be great.
Locals and Indians have always been together in Dubai, I think it would have a great market both in India and the Middle East.
When asked about upcoming projects,I was surprised to learn that she has cultivated an Italian connection,
‘Once’ is my private project, a short film about a woman’s paranoia juxtaposed against her beauty and fashion. Italian company Independent Ideas owned by Lapo Elkann, is interested in this film because it highlights fashion, beauty and paranoia. It’s a purely product placement kind of movie so we approached Dolce Gabbana and they are really interested in working with us.
She received her training at a prestigious film school in Toronto.
People think documentaries are boring, I too had this misconception but in Toronto I realised that documentaries can be fun to watch and there is so much to learn from them. There was one about a guy who was a bus driver in Toronto and a king in his city back in Africa! These films make you think that there are so many ways of thinking.
This is what I love about films DIFF (Dubai International Film Festival) says “it is bridging cultures” and it is truly so. It’s a medium that can bring a lot of peace and understanding and that is what attracts me to it.
Her enthusiasm is contagious! Now that I think of it, although another medium, as a child my favorite record was one with "Christmas stories from around the world" and my favorite story was the one about La Befana.