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Emirates' first female film producer tackles pedophilia

From Tracey Holmes for CNN
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Nayla Al Khaja: Confronting taboos
  • Nayla Al Khaja is trying to become the UAE's Oprah
  • Khaja is the Emirates' first female film producer
  • Predicts censorship will soon become a thing of the past
  • Tackles taboo subjects, like pedophilia, in her films

Dubai, UAE (CNN) -- Nayla Al Khaja is breaking new ground in the United Arab Emirates.

She's the first female film producer in the Emirates.

And she's taking on regulators, censors -- and public opinion -- with her ground-breaking films delving into sensitive subjects like pedophilia and secret teen dating in the Muslim world.

Lately, Khaja, 31, has also been busy trying to become UAE's own Oprah, developing a proposal for a talk show tackling sensitive, Oprah-like subjects for Dubai One, the kingdom's main English-language television channel.

Khaja is founder of Dubai-based D-Seven Motion Pictures, previously known as Dessart Productions, producing commercial material, independent documentaries and films. The company was founded in 2002.

Besides her television work, Khaja is currently working on a short film about a young Emirati couple on honeymoon and a documentary on Dubai's ruling family.

I love trouble.
--Nayla Al Khaja, UAE film producer
  • Movies
  • Dubai
  • Middle East

She talked to CNN's Inside the Middle East about the challenges she faces as a young female film producer tackling previously taboo subjects in the conservative Middle East.

Nayla Al Khaja: We have a long way to go. Whenever I am writing a script, there is always this thing in my mind that flashes, 'That's not gonna pass through -- find another way of doing this,' you know. And I don't want to have that, but right now I have no choice. But I think it is changing and it's changing fast.

Inside the Middle East: I wonder about your life compared to your mother's life. How different are they in such a short space of time, and what kind of challenges does that create?

Khaja: It's insane. It's like quantum leap. You're in this era and then like you're in another world.

The difference between my generation and my mom's and my grandma's is just like a camel magically converting into an SUV. They never had a gradual development in their mind, whether it's cultural or any other way, so I do sometimes feel sorry for them.

They're becoming even more conservative because they feel a loss of identity and it's like our principles we believe in -- it's all going away too fast. Wait a minute, hang on. This is getting ... like, 'This is too fast.' What's happening to our children, you know. They're all very Americanized. They're doing things we would have never thought [they would do] in a million years.

An example, my mom always wanted to be a news broadcaster and she couldn't follow her dream because it would have been impossible with how strict things were back then. But today, I am a filmmaker and doing films on pedophilia and women dating in secret.

IME: There's discussion about you becoming UAE's Oprah, if you like, with a TV show where you talk about the issues that are confronting the generation at the moment. But confronting those issues head on with the real life players is not the same as confronting those issues on film, is it?

Khaja: It's definitely easier because you have a script and you can play with the script. I do think that within a couple of years, I'll be not worried about censorship whatsoever. That's a big step, that's a great step actually.

Yeah, my talk show is going to be out in January, so I'm really excited [the show is still on hold]. Of course, there are some red lines there. Like I said, this talk show would have been impossible four years ago, the fact that's it's happening right now ... I'm a big optimist. So it's great."

IME: The responsibility also, because of the doors you've broken down. Does that feel like a burden? Do you carry the weight of a whole lot of other people coming through? Do sometimes you think, I've had enough of this, someone else take it?"

Khaja: No, I'm just starting. I want more. I love trouble. But I think I have a very long way to go. I do. I want to be the producer in the movies to make commercial films. I want to be a mini-studio one day. That's my vision, that's my dream. I am very determined. I want to make genre films that make a lot of money.

Daniela Deane contributed to this report.

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