Five Minute Focus – Anwar Roma (Lights of Rome)

Team TMN chat with Matt Slater, Co-founder of Seven Media and Executive Producer of The Lights of Rome, to talk about the premier of Ali Khaled’s new documentary: Anwar Roma (Lights of Rome)…

What was it that stood out about this story that compelled you to make this documentary?

The 1990 World Cup resonated with many people from my generation, that are almost 40 years old now, as it was probably the first World Cup we watched as young kids. When the UAE qualified for the World Cup in 1989, it was one of the most important sporting moments in the country’s history and yet, there are very few people that know about it.

What makes this story so unique?

The UAE was only 19 years old when it qualified and at that time, was the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup. It is a real underdog story and even though we all know the outcome, when watching the old footage in the film you still find yourself rooting for the UAE.

The film is also unique as it doesn’t only focus on football, but gives an insight into what the UAE was like at that time – which I know expats and international viewers will find fascinating.

Tell us how the collaboration with Image Nation came about?

Seven Media has been the retained PR agency for Image Nation for the past three years and has always enjoyed a close relationship with them. When the Director, Ali and I came up with the idea, we felt that it fits Image Nation’s mandate perfectly. Its documentary department strives to make films that are of importance to the Emirati culture and history which made them jump at the chance to create this film.

What were your most challenging moments while producing the film?

The archive footage was the hardest to source. The games were barely covered in the local press, so finding footage from the qualifying games was particularly hard for our team. Hana Makki, the film’s Producer from Image Nation, spent over a year and half sourcing the archive footage alone.

What was the reaction at the World Premiere at DOC NYC, New York?

We received an incredible reaction at DOC NYC – something we were slightly apprehensive about – being that it was an Arabic documentary, about the UAE and football! But it was very well received. We had audience members tell us how much they loved learning more about the UAE and its history – which is one of the reasons we made this film in the first place.

How do you think UAE nationals and residents will react to the film?

The story will definitely resonate with UAE nationals. This was an incredible moment in UAE history and something that should be celebrated. We also hope the day of the release, which is December 1, 2016 in time for UAE’s National day, will ignite patriotism around the film.

For expat residents who have recently moved here, the archive footage of the UAE from the 70s and 80s is fascinating. The film is not only entertaining, but you might learn a thing or two about the Emirates that you didn’t know before.

This is also a film about football at the end of the day and sport is one of those things that unite people around the world when you oversee language and cultural barriers and so we hope this film will reflect that.

How long did the creation of the documentary take, from conceptualisation to the very first premier?

Ali and I had our first chat about the idea just after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Image Nation then started production around two years ago and our team was still in the editing room the day before the premiere! Since the film is largely made up of archive footage, that’s what took the bulk of the work.

Do you plan on premiering the film in any other countries in the region?

There are no plans yet for regional screenings, following the film’s New York premiere and UAE release. There are a host of film festivals dedicated to sporting films which The Lights of Rome would be perfect for and so we hope it will be screened around the world. The film is a great opportunity to showcase not only this great moment in sporting history, but the UAE’s rich culture and history as well.

Where will the premier take place in the UAE and where will it be showing?

The premiere will be at Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi on December 1, 2016 and will hit selected theatres across the UAE including, Nation Towers, World Trade Center Mall, Dubai Mall, Derrfields Mall, Dalma Mall, Cineplex Grand Hyatt and City Centre Fujairah.