Nayla Al Khaja


A sleeping giant in the Middle East called FILM

Nayla, acclaimed Emirati filmmaker, discusses the incredible potential and the emergence of a new film industry in the UAE. Nayla also highlights that, if given an opportunity, in addition to the cultural and economic benefits, film can dramatically help projecting the Arab image to the world in an entire new perspective.

Nayla graduated from Dubai Women's College with a degree in Mass Communication in 1999 and had a stint with Arabian Radio Network where she hosted her own travel show. It turned out to be a great success, her ratings being second to only the managing director's show. However Nayla realized her true calling lay in film-production which prompted her to apply to Ryerson University in Canada, well known for its Film making program. She graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor in Image studies - Film making.

On her return to Dubai, Nayla recognized a lack of financial resources would create significant obstacles in realizing her dream of pioneering a film industry in the UAE. Instead of losing hope, she went out and found the resources to direct and produce her first documentary film, Unveiling Dubai (2004), which was premiered at Dubai International Film Festival. There was no looking back after that. Given a lack of regional film industry and Nayla being the first UAE national woman to embark on such a career, she received media attention and accolades from as far away as the Washington Post NHK and the BBC World.

In 2006, she produced and directed a movie called Arabana, which deals with the disturbing issue of a child abuse, a subject which is taboo in the Middle East. Although it was very difficult to fit such an intense subject in a span of six minutes, Nayla managed to do so quite efficiently and not without effect. The movie is hard hitting and makes you sit back and take notice. The movie was premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival and received special recognition for its content.
Nayla has absolute faith in her dreams although she realizes that she still has a long way to go. She believes in the mind-altering and life-changing ability of films and wants to use this medium to change the way people in the West view the Middle East. She aspires to produce commercially viable, yet thought-provoking, feature films and to establish an image arts university in the UAE.