Social media sees Abu Dhabi film go viral

Filmmaker presents capital as a living, breathing entity

The first thing that pulls you in are the hypnotic visuals of flickering lights, glittering skyscrapers and speeding cars that flow into one another like fast-moving lava, capturing Abu Dhabi as a living, breathing entity with a rhythm that echoes through its every fibre.

This is filmmaker, art director and photographer Benor Saradzic’s captivating time-lapse imagery that comes together in the form of the 3.20-minute documentary, titled “Abu Dhabi 2011”, which, coupled with the haunting background score by Vladimir Persan, has attracted the attention of thousands around the globe.

After social media purists took the video and went viral with it on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, which also resulted in the film finding a place in the highly-coveted spot on Yahoo.com’s homepage for nearly a week, the film director is now finally finding his footing after the high that has taken him global.

An ode to a city

“It was my way of presenting a Godly perspective of the city that has become my home and I have grown to love. I have lived here for 20 years now and she [Abu Dhabi] is my muse,” Saradzic told Emirates 24|7. “Paying tribute to that muse is my film that showcases a different Abu Dhabi, one that we fail to admire whilst going about our daily lives without taking pause and thanking the city that has given us so much in return.”

Saradzic’s vision was to capture Abu Dhabi’s essence, watching the emirate grow through his film, from a sleepy village into a dramatic urban metropolis that is bursting with life.

“The change had to be a complete visual contrast, and that made me want to capture every living being in the emirate and seem them flowing through the streets like lava,” he said.

Utilising the technique of time-lapse filming, whereby multiple photographs of several scenes are taken at regular intervals over a stretched period of time and then projected in sequences during editing to create the illusion of exceedingly fleeting time and movements that the human eye isn’t accustomed to, Saradzic shot nearly 21,000 photos from more than a dozen vantage points across Abu Dhabi.

“It took eight weeks of photography, half of which was spent attempting to get the logistics in order through permissions to access rooftops of high rise towers,” revealed Saradzic. “But once that was sorted, everything simply fell into place.”

Those familiar with Abu Dhabi will recognise the breathtaking lightshow from the aerial perspective of the several neighbourhoods and iconic landmarks, including the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Emirates Palace Hotel and those painstakingly selected skyscrapers near Corniche road.

A film such as this may appear to be have a hefty production cost, but Saradzic is quick to point out that “Abu Dhabi 2011” was shot at a zero budget and the only thing that went into his “labour of love” was time.

“No one commissioned this project,” he reiterated. “It is my vision alone and a tribute to His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late President of the UAE, who was a visionary architect himself.

“It is a lyrical effort of recognition for the extraordinary and awe inspiring progress Sheikh Zayed initiated, and the magnificent transformation the country has witnessed in a few short decades.”

Social media support

An architect by profession and now an art director and filmmaker with Timesand Studios, Saradzic’s next step was to approach the media to showcase his efforts. But unbeknown to him, the traditional fourth estate would only come in later, with video going viral within days of uploading on to his Facebook page.

“Within a few days of uploading the video on to Facebook, I had 7,000 viewers, along with another 15,000 more through Yahoo,” said Saradzic. “I think I’ve lost count of how many have posted the link to my film on Twitter, but it is the support of the public than has gained the film the recognition in such a short span.”

Ousama Ghannoum, the Marketing and Media Director for Aldar and a resident of Abu Dhabi for over a decade said the film was breathtaking, said: “The sequences at night were fantastic. I have lived here for 15 years, but the first time I saw it I thought, ‘it can’t be here’. I’ve never seen Abu Dhabi like this, from that height. It’s emotional and fantastic.”

“I couldn’t believe this is Abu Dhabi, my home for the last 25 years,” said an emotional Khadija Al Mahroum, a student. “This film has taught me to take pause and pay ode to a city that has given me life, comforts and a home.”

Saradzic now wants to make a few more short films, including one on Dubai, before embarking of a full-length feature film.

“The Abu Dhabi Film Commission has already shown interest in my future projects and I encourage all aspiring filmmakers that if you have a good idea, don’t hold back,” he said. “If your vision exists, people will recognise it and give you a platform to showcase it, no holds barred.”

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