Sex and Dubai Studio City

“Imagine a place where you can shoot a film from start to finish in one location. From scripting to casting to pre-production to filming in exotic locations to editing to sound recording to visual animation to processing to distribution and finally to the premiere night. Imagine a place like Dubai Studio City.”

That’s what the blurb says. But when Dubai Studio City was approached by the makers of Sex and the City’s sequel film, it turned out to be not so simple.

Dubai Studio City explained: “In accordance with its standard procedures, LAS [Location Approval Services] referred the script to the relevant government authority to review the same by taking into consideration the multicultural fabric of the society and its perceptions ... Further to the recommendation of the government authority, the request for filming was declined.”

The National points out that the first Sex and the City film was not shown in UAE cinemas last year, though the TV series on which it was based can be viewed in the Emirates on the Showtime network.

This is not the first refusal. The 2008 spy thriller, Body of Lies, was also turned away from Dubai, apparently because of political sensitivities. Scenes supposedly set in Jordan were eventually filmed in Morocco.

It is becoming a familiar problem in the Emirates. On one hand they are trying to develop into a hub for the world’s media and culture but on the other hand they can’t quite bring themselves to accept the implications of that.

The issue came up in 2007 when Abu Dhabi announced hugely expensive plans to open a branch of the Louvre but was rather iffy about what kind of paintings might safely be put on display. As one report observed at the time:

Yesterday’s agreement sets the stage for the establishment of a universal museum dominated by classical western art covering “all civilisations and all eras, including the contemporary era”, while respecting the two sides’ “cultural values”.

This last clause has led to questions about which works can be exhibited in a country in which all nude representations or crucifixion scenes would be deemed offensive. “Thank goodness Monet painted waterlilies,” quipped the left-leaning daily Liberation.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 7 August 2009