Topaz Duo: Cosmic Phoenix, the world’s first Arab sci-fi, musical, and comedy, is the brainchild of a team of creative professionals working independently to carve a niche for sci-fi in the Arab world. A sci-fi Arabic film? We needed to know more; so we got in contact with Ben Robinson, the director of the movie and one of the team members of this pioneering as well as intriguing project. We have a feeling, Topaz Duo: Cosmic Phoenix is going to shake up the Arab film field.
What is the film Cosmic Phoenix about?
Topaz Duo:Cosmic Phoenix is an insane Arab Sci-Fi Comedy Musical. It follows the adventures of Ahmed and Nahla, a married pair of Egyptian Lounge Singers, as they do battle with a crazy Alien who invades Doha and tries to destroy the world. Ahmed and Nahla are ‘Musical Ghostbusters’ who use a variety of modified instruments and the power of Love to fight Evil.
It’s the first scifi/musical/comedy of it’s kind in the Gulf, how did you set about to start such an initiative?
There are a growing number of Sci-Fi and Horror Filmmakers in Qatar, all working in harmony with the core goal of creating the perfect Arabian Sci-Fi productions. I had been developing a completely different Sci-Fi storyline for almost a year, revolving around my favourite building in the whole world: The Sheraton, Doha. One day, as I was having lunch at the Sheraton, I spotted a poster advertising the forthcoming residency of Topaz Duo at the Al-Shaheen rooftop restaurant. Seeing Ahmed and Nahla’s faces smiling out at me, I immediately decided to drop the screenplay I had been writing, and make a film with Topaz Duo instead. A week later, after watching this amazing musical act perform, and having one of the best nights ever in Doha, I approached Topaz Duo and told them my plans. I described the project as similar to Michael Jackson’s THRILLER music video. To my delight, they accepted immediately, and 3 weeks later we were filming.
Is there a demand for sci-fi in the Gulf?
Sci-fi and horror cinema is hugely popular in the Gulf, as proven by Box Office receipts. Just like the old Myths and fables of thousands of years ago, these films allow the viewer to explore their dreams and nightmares, and help us deal with our fears from the safe environment of the cinema auditorium. We hope to expand COSMIC PHOENIX, and other similar projects, into movies and TV shows for the region, and really cater to the imaginations of the Arab World’s youth market, which is comprised of over 300 million people. Sci-fi and horror cinema is hugely popular in the Gulf, as proven by Box Office receipts. Just like the old Myths and fables of thousands of years ago, these films allow the viewer to explore their dreams and nightmares, and help us deal with our fears from the safe environment of the cinema auditorium.
Can you tell us more about your cast and team?
Cosmic Phoenix is written and directed by myself, Ben Robinson, a Sci-fi/horror filmmaker from London who moved to Qatar in 2009. It is produced by Reem Shaddad (Transmedia/Digital Producer), Umer Shabib (Student Filmmaker) and Sophia Al-Maria (Qatari Writer/Filmmaker). The film stars Ahmed Elghamrawi and Nahla Alsawi, who are the real life musicians in Topaz Duo. It co-stars noted Palestinian actor Ashraf Farah (Miral, Pomegranates AND Myrhh) and charismatic newcomer, Jordanian Mohanned Al-Melhem (who I truly believe will become the Al Pacino of the Gulf).
We know its tough trying to make it in the Gulf, tell us of your struggle?
It’s pretty difficult to sell the idea of ‘Musical Ghostbusters’ fighting Aliens in Doha, so if I had waited for funding, we may never have made the film at all. I put every penny I had into creating this exciting new Arab Sci-Fi franchise. We all see this film as a pilot for a Feature-length version, and maybe a TV show too. I’ve been producing low-budget films for years in Europe, so i know how to make money stretch. But the film still cost a small fortune. We are launching an Online Crowd-funding campaign soon to try and recoup some of our costs, and several Producers are now circling the project following a rough-cut screening at Berlin Film Festival and a soft launch of our trailer online.
Where will the film be shown?
We are making the film for International Film Festivals like Fantastic Fest in Texas and Sitges in Spain, which showcase and celebrate Sci-Fi films, but we would LOVE to have our premiere at Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2012!
What’s next after Cosmic Phoenix?
We hope to expand Cosmic Phoenix, and other similar projects, into movies and TV shows for the region, and really cater to the imaginations of the Arab World’s youth market, which is comprised of over 300 million people. We are also very aware of the power and reach of the digital world, and aim to engage our audience through interactive routes.
Any tips for budding film creatives trying to produce their own films?
Spend a lot of time developing an original story before you even write the script. Try to create a compelling world that no-one has ever seen before, but make it a world that audiences can relate to. If your story is too weird, no-one will want to watch it. Even in our psychadelic Sci-fi musical, the central theme of the film is the power of love. Once you have written a great script, have some people read it and tell you honestly what they think. It’s no good having friends blindly support you if the story is bad. Then, when you want to make your film, build a loyal, dedicated team around you and follow the conventional steps of film production. There are tried and tested ways to make a film, and you should take your time to learn what they are.
For more information on Topaz Duo: Cosmic Phoenix, you can check out their Facebook page
- Khaleejesque Staff