Abu Dhabi-backed film wins Oscar nomination

Roman J. Israel Esq. features Denzel Washinton as a lawyer in an overworked California criminal court system
Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington

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Roman J. Israel Esq., a film backed by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, has secured an Oscar nomination for two-time winner Denzel Washington.

The film is the first production Image Nation has invested in through its Culture China – Image Nation Abu Dhabi Content Fund. Image Nation’s Ben Ross and Derek Dauchy are two of the film’s executive producers.

The film is set amidst the backdrop of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system, with Washington starring as Roman Israel, an idealistic defense attorney struggling with the aftermath of the death of his mentor, a civil rights icon.

A turbulent series of events takes place after Roman is invited to work in a firm led by one of his mentor’s former students – played by Colin Farrell – and becomes friends with Maya Alston, a young equal rights champion played by British actress Carmen Ejogo.

“We are delighted that Denzel Washington’s outstanding performance in Roman J. Israel, Esq. has garnered an Oscar nomination,” said Image Nation Abu Dhabi CEO Michael Garin.

“For Image Nation, our international film production investments are strategically made to ensure we can continue to invest in, nurture and produce local productions with local Arab talent,” he added.

“This this level of recognition for one of our international investments really helps to showcase the calibrd of productions Image Nation is involved with at a global level.”

Additionally, one of Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s local productions, Shebab Sheyab, recently premiered to critical acclaim at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The comedy drama is written and directed by filmmaker Yasir Al Yasiri, with Emirati director Majid Al Ansari serving as executive producer.

The film follows four elderly men living, dejected and sad, in a senior home until one of them inherits AED 500 million, allowing them to follow long-forgotten dreams they had. The film features a cast of actors from throughout the Middle East, including the UAE, Kuwait and Syria.

The production is one of three local feature films recently made in the region by Image Nation alongside Rashid & Rajab and Scales.

In a 2016 interview with Arabian Business, Michael Garin – who joined Image Nation Abu Dhabi in 2011 – said that the company hopes to create opportunities for young Emiratis to build a career in the UAE’s film and TV industry.

“The reason that we’re here is to participate in the building of civil society, the economic development of the region, and to provide meaningful opportunities for young, talented Emiratis to pursue their futures here and help build that society,” he said.

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