Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: Hooray for Hollywood!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hooray for Hollywood!

Another installment of the movie adaptation of HBO's popular series is set to hit silver screens all over the world on May 28th. The first one had our Gal Pals going south of the border to Mexico in search of romantic fulfillment.

This second version of "The Cougar Chronicles", as I would rename the series, has our intrepid and insatiable ladies escaping their mundane domestic lives in New York City in an attempt to spark up their love lives in, of all places....Abu Dhabi! That makes as much sense as filming SATC3 in The Vatican!

It is confusing to me why the producers and screenplay writers chose this Muslim Emirate as a venue where public displays of affection are illegal and cohabitation can get a person hard prison time. Recently in Dubai, a couple were arrested for kissing in a restaurant.

In reality, the only "Sex and the City" here is the many Chinese prostitutes that infest downtown tourist hotel bars. If I had a dollar for every time I have been groped in these places by Oriental "hostesses", my car would be paid off by now.

The local film commission even denied permission for the production company to film scenes on location in Abu Dhabi. Because of this, the Abu Dhabi scenes were filmed in Morocco including a fake Emirates Palace Hotel set, an Abu Dhabi landmark.

The Real Emirates Palace Hotel

One has to wonder why the makers of this movie did not just use Morocco as the ladies' destination in the film. Morocco has virtually the same landscape and culture, at least in Western eyes. Certainly our girls could find romance in the same country that is portrayed in what's considered one of the most romantic movies of all time, "Casablanca". You know, the classic one with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Dubai is recognized throughout the world as a glamorous location but Abu Dhabi, just 100 kilometers away, is off the radar screen for most movie goers. This film will be popular and the mention of Abu Dhabi will make it more of a household word. Tourism is bound to increase here as a result. Many thousands of love-starved middle aged women will see Abu Dhabi as a prime romantic location to fulfill their menopausal "Girls Gone Wild " fantasies. Abu Dhabi will finally be on the map as a desirable and trendy place to be.

The cynic in me says there were some investors that wanted Abu Dhabi as the movie venue for the publicity. Ironically, the film will probably not be shown in the local theaters due to the controversial subject. The title alone is a deal-killer here. The lost local revenues are a drop in the bucket.

What is important is the global exposure of a popular Hollywood movie and the chance to shift a little more attention away from the now tarnished city-state of Dubai to the up and coming  Emirate and city of Abu Dhabi without offending local sensibilities. Very crafty, IMHO!


vedabread said...

Maybe once people back home watch this they will stop asking, "How's life in Dubai?" or "How are you getting on in Saudi?" Abu Dhabi will finally get its own identity. Even the British press get it wrong all the time. I read an article about the Grand Prix in 'Dubai' not so long ago. I also read about the ill fated balloon that crashed in 'Dubai.' To people in the UK the UAE = Dubai.

Dave said...

I have also met people that think Dubai is a country and Abu Dhabi is the capital.

This is a really interesting move by the producers to promote Abu Dhabi, and certainly one that would have helped finance the movie I believe.

I think Abu Dhabi will continue to go from strenght to strenght. They have also learnt from the mistakes Dubai has made (and still is) and I think the future is so bright they will have to wear shades.....

Anna-Lou said...

I can't believe you... But maybe you're right. Cougar are always lying, so maybe that this movie is a lie too !

Ace said...

@Dave: Abu Dhabi is indeed the future of the Emirates. Dubai was the hare to Abu Dhabi's tortoise.

Abu Dhabi will prevail in the end although I wish to see no losers.

I was in Dubai last weekend and it was somewhat depressing.

Abu Dhabi has the wealth to advance and sustain its conservative and sensible approach to growth. It will eclipse Dubai in time.

@ Anna-Lou: I am not bullshitting you, sweetie! Investors got Abu Dhabi a huge global plug without one foot (meter) of actual filming being done here. Hollywood is happy. Morocco is happy, the Abu Dhabi tourist authority is sure to be happy and the Emiratis are not offended! Win-win!

Sheer, subtle marketing genius!

@ vedabread: As a bonus, like the other commenters said, I may not have to give a geography lesson ever again when asked where I live!

Rootless said...

Ace, I think you are right that Abu Dhabi is finally doing a very effective job of marketing itself. Suddenly it's become a must-visit destination - though, let's be frank, about 4 or 5 years too soon. Right now there's not really much to see or do (ok, the F1 set-up is excellent but Yas island is still a building site, not to mention Saadiyat). This recent article is an example (though any list of must-see cities that includes Shenzhen and Bangalore, two of the most unredeemingly charmless places to which I have the misfortune to be regularly dispatched, must be viewed with suspicion):
Interesting that a large part of this new media profile for AD is as the "anti-Dubai", which, for a first-time visitor is not likely to ring very true.

The SATC movie seems to me a very odd bit of marketing though. Like you Ace, I wonder why the producers bothered with a pretend AD when they could just as easily (and presumably with much lower production costs) have scripted the movie to be set in the actual filming location of Morocco. SATC just seems so much more Dubai than AD anyway. Is this perhaps a sign that AD is now getting too over-excited and undiscerning about it's own marketing and not thinking things through? Or were AD authorities not even involved - perhaps AD has so much "heat" right now that SATC wanted to jump on the bandwagon? I guess the movie may reveal the truth (though even that will not be enough to entice me to bear sitting through it).

But this publicity flutter does sharpen for me the more fundamental question about where AD is going. While it is supposedly more "conservative" and reserved than Dubai, AD is clearly trying to establish itself as a major centre of the arts and culture. Most visible are the very splashy high-profile investments in major museum brands and structures designed by celebrity architects (albeit everything I've seen so far looks amazing). Reportedly, a key element of the deal for the Louvre, and presumably the Guggenheim also, was a commitment to have unrestricted and uncensored exhibitions. In a part of the world where the convention is to avoid any artistic representations of the human form (other than pictures of shaikhs I guess), let alone in a state of undress or arousal, how will these temples to free (and often extreme) expression fit in? While I find this ambition enchanting, I am off-the-scale liberal compared to most of the resident population here, let alone local nationals. How will they feel about where their leaders are taking them? My sense is that most locals haven't yet paid much attention to this or thought through the consequences.

For the second year in a row, I enjoyed a free concert by some of my favourite music performers courtesy of ADACH at last weekend's WOMAD. As I grooved along to the exotic Tuareg rhythms of Tinariwen in Jahili fort in Al Ain after midnight, I was surrounded mainly by bewildered Pakistanis (who had stayed on following the previous Qawalli singer), a few north Africans and the odd aging hippie westerner. The only few locals were from ADACH (even some local friends who I had dragged along had left at that point). So for whose benefit is all this investment in the arts and culture? At what point will it emerge in direct conflict with the will of the local populace who are generally far more conservative than their rulers? SATC in AD is but one signifier along a road to a destination that I suspect many Emiratis won't want to reach.

茂恒 said...

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Ace said...

Rootless: I see a trend here where the powers that be in AD have said "enough is enough". Abu Dhabi has the real power and money in the Emirates and I think there is a sea change coming.

In the past, Dubai has marketed itself very well as a "brand". It is known all over the world. No one knows where Abu Dhabi is.

I think that Abu Dhabi's leaders are now trying to correct that and show the world where the real power resides in the UAE. The renaming of the tallest building in the world in Dubai to the Burj Khalifa is one such example of the current aggressive marketing of Abu Dhabi.

The once dowdy but wealthy sister is awakening now that the bloom is off the Dubai rose. I agree it is too early for the attractions, but there is no such thing as bad publicity. Just spell my name right!

I think this is the first time Abu Dhabi has ever been mentioned in a movie. To me, it is marketing genius.

Promoting AD as an exotic, romantic destination without the messy cultural complications of actually filming the movie here was very smart. In my mind, there is no doubt local money was involved

Looks like full speed ahead for Abu Dhabi! But they will eventually have to put "the sizzle in the steak"!

Ace said...

Oh, and 茂恒, when you can contribute to the conversation, your comments will be posted again.

I have been patient and have allowed you to post your spam in the past, but one more time and I will have to pull the plug for the benefit of my legitimate readers and myself.

Can I hear a "hell yeah"!!!!!

Dave said...

Hell Yeah