Small nations and the global dispersal of film production: A comparative analysis of the film industries in New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates

Alfio Leotta


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a small country that boasts a large oil reserve, but has virtually no history of film production. The growing desire to see local stories on the big screen, coupled with the need to diversify an economy which heavily relies on oil extraction, has pushed local government to invest increasing resources into the film industry. Government-funded production company Image Nation, for example, was recently endowed with a US$1 billion capital to establish partnerships with international studios such as Hyde Park Entertainment and Warner Bros. In 2011, Image Nation co-produced successful blockbusters such as The Help (2011) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011). More recently, the UAE have hosted major film productions such as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) and Star Wars VII (2014). The profits from these global successes have been used to subsidize local productions and training programs for young Emirati filmmakers. Image Nation is attempting to profit from the globalization of film production, thus following in the footsteps of other small nations such as New Zealand, where the film sector now accounts for a significant percentage of the country’s GDP. The popularity of filmmakers such as Peter Jackson has attracted international film productions which in turn contributes to the upskilling of local talent and the development of film infrastructures. The case studies examined in this article compare different strategies that emerging satellite production centers deploy to engage with the global dispersal of film production. This analysis will suggest that while small nations can profit culturally and economically from the internationalization of media production, they still operate within a media system characterized by a structural power imbalance.

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