Dubai, that sun-soaked luxury-brand Babel, ranks high amongst the most surreal cities I've ever creeped through. It already looks like a science fiction film set—towering monoliths dot an arid landscape, pedestrians are scarce (either due to post-apocalyptic environs or the expense of CGI-animating too many of them), and the dusty air coats the whole aesthetic with a gritty post-future haze. Nature will invade even our most expensive, advanced, and perfect structures, it says.
This is the home of the indoor ski slope, the tallest building in the world, beaches with refrigerated sand. It is, according to sci-fi dogma, the luxurious future that inevitably gets punctured—by disaster, uprising, by technological flux—by whatever.
Now that city has produced its own sci-fi film, a—surprise—post-apocalyptic vision of a city torn apart by the approach of two suns. Called The Sons of Two Suns, it was written and directed by S. A. Zaidi and produced by Ghanem Ghubash. It's being recognized as the first sci-fi to be produced in the United Arab Emirates, the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation also home to the equally opulent Abu Dhabi.
The film played at the region's Gulf Film Fest, and a blogger at the festival interviewed its creators—this is how sci-fi was born in the UAE:
Childhood friends and best buds, Ali and Ghanem grew up on a steady diet of comic books. [But] initially Ali Zaidi said that he expressed concern at the notion of beginning Science Fiction within Dubai cinema, an area never touched upon prior.
“I was like, Science Fiction? No man, let’s do Horror, get out while we can.” Yet thanks to Ghanem’s urging, they moved along with Science Fiction, which numerous fans, especially at the Middle East Film & Comic Con are grateful for.
“It was a huge surprise, in under a month we had over 75,000 views and everyone was excited about the film.” After sending ‘The Son’s of two Suns” for the Cannes Festival 2013, they are planning on moving into a darker genre, focusing more on the artistic aspect.
“We’ve always loved the art of Tim Burton and Dali, and that’s what we would be looking into. But not exactly Burton, I mean….we would be Ali and Ghanem of course,”
“We aren’t looking back, we are going to continue down this path: Science Fiction,” exclaims Ali.
I haven't been able to track down the full film, but needless to say, I'm eager to see of what dystopian sci-fi looks like when it is set in the one of the most naturally dystopian-looking cities out there.
To most of the outside world, the city itself is an abstraction, a kind of fiction. To us, Dubai is a city swathed in unreality—built as big and tall as possible for no particular reason, with money that wasn't there, in perpetual search of a cultural narrative beyond the words 'oil boom' or 'luxury tourism'.
The chance to watch a quick sci-fi flick put together by a couple of endearing comic book geeks is a reminder that Dubai itself isn't science fiction, after all.