Saturday, November 30, 2013

Something to Ponder....

Now when I read a news item online, I'm starting to take a moment and read the comments that people have posted about the article.

There was something I read about the story of the Saudi/Yemeni Romeo and Juliet. The story is amazing, but was not the thing that got my attention, it was the comments. So many negative comments about Arabs, Iranians, Islam, and the region. I mean I know it happens, but I guess because that is so FAR away from how I think, it surprised me.

I have a lot of friends and business associates from the region, and to read the comments...I felt insulted. It's that "How can you say something like that?" feeling, because it implies that people I like and associate with daily are somehow perceived in a negative light for no reason. How can someone make a negative comment when they have no experience with people from the Middle East, and to comment on Islam when they know nothing about it? The same holds true for all races and religions.

I think feeling insulted was a good thing, maybe if we all felt insulted and made that clear when someone attacks with a racial/religious slur, even though it is not aimed at you personally, those that made the comment might learn something. Most people say nothing, as they don't want to be the next one to be profiled/attacked. And the ones who still continue with nasty/negative comments, you know what they say, Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Shah the Movie Interview Young Journalists Club, Iran

Tehran, YJC. MENA CineFinance Managing Director discusses the production of a historical film about Iran’s Shah.

Lavender Pictures has said that it is going to produce a historical feature about the late Iranian Shah. YJC has made an interview with Michelle Nickelson, whose company MENA CineFinance works with the production team. 

YJC. What politically oriented motivations are likely to support the production?

M.N. I believe that film, being an art form, should not be politically supported. We as the filmmakers, are looking to tell a story, if there are political connections to the production, it could have an adverse effect. We want to tell the story of who the Shah was, as a politician, husband, father, the Shah, like most people in his position, had many facets to his personality. It does not matter if one is pro or anti Shah, the fact remains he is a historical character, and his involvement in Iran had an effect on world history.

YJC. How is the film indebted to previous production concerning Iran, including films such as Argo and 300?

M.N. With the 300, that was produced as a high concept action adventure, based on a comic series. One would take a lot of liberties in telling that kind of story, as it's a fictionalized story of a historical event, the Battle of Thermopylae. Argo was based on true events, but as a feature film, the story is done in a way that may have content that is fictionalized to grab the audience. It's my understanding the ending scene was not entirely true, but it did work to heighten the suspense of the story. With Shah, while we have in mind the story we want to tell, it is not a documentary, it is a feature film. The story will be based on true events and historical facts, but you have to consider, even with researching what happened and speaking to people who were involved, we can never say for certain what happened regarding the Shah, as we cannot speak directly to him and get his input on why he did certain things. We can surmise from the events that took place what happened, but there will always be that gray area where we really don't know. One could argue that these gray areas may be fictionalized, but we are not setting out to invent a story or events that did not actually happen.

YJC. How is Kingsley's new role in line with his previous roles as Iranian characters, keeping in mind that he has played Avecina as well as an Iranian military officer so far?

M.N. Ben Kingsley is one of those artists who can take on any role and do an amazing job. I would say that it's not so much in keeping in line with his having previously played Iranian characters as much as it's in line with his innate ability to play any character, and have the audience completely believe him. He is an immensely talented actor and we believe he will bring to the role of Shah the intensity and professionalism he brings to all his characters.

YJC. How is the production going to support the production companies' universal missions?

M.N. Our goal with Shah is to tell a story about a man who lived through an incredibly interesting and tumultuous period of time, and what happened to him during the last years of his life. Remember, in the mid to late 1970's the US was recovering from the Vietnam War and Watergate, and Margaret Thatcher had just become Prime Minister. I believe that the creative team behind the Shah film, the story subject, and the timing with what's going on internationally right now, make this the perfect opportunity for a strong interest in the story. If we execute our goal and strategy as planned, then we will achieve the mission of entertaining the audience, perhaps educating them, but ultimately let the audience decide what they feel about the character of Shah.

In the mid 1980's, China opened up to independent foreign tourism. Then in 1987 when Bernardo Bertolucci's, The Last Emperor came out, people were fascinated by the location, as most had not seen The Forbidden City. We have been invited to film in Iran and if we are able to put together filming in Shah's Palace, it will give the project the same opportunity to generate interest and continue the dialogue about Iran. That's the thing about a good film, it gets people talking and once that starts, things happen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shah Article

Ben Kingsley takes on the Shah of Iran

Ben Kingsley has been signed on to play the Shah of Iran in a new feature film that will shed light on the backstory that led to the Islamic Revolution and hostage crisis at the US embassy in 1979.
Gateway Films, a UK-based production house, and Mena CineFinance, which operates out of Los Angeles and the UAE, will be working with the actor to make a US$40million (Dh147m) drama that they say will “highlight the failure of American foreign policy during that period”.
The film will probe the political competence and alliances of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last ruler in the Iranian monarchy, against the backdrop of his personal and family life.
“There is a lot of noise around, particularly with Nixon and Carter having overindulged the Shah, without being ready for the consequences of that policy and how it affected the view of Saudi Arabia,” said Chris Howard, a producer at Gateway Films.
“They were slightly imperialistic in the way they approached it and it was kind of a replacement for a more sympathetic foreign policy for the region. This will be a good political story to tell.”
The producers stress the movie will not be a lopsided account, but hope to “set the record straight” on the lead-up to the storming of the US embassy in Tehran, where 52 embassy workers were taken hostage by militant students.
“The only thing most Americans know is the aftermath of the failure of the policy when it comes to the hostage situation. What they do not appreciate is how the Shah manipulated America and how he was over-endorsed, which led to the Islamic Revolution.”
Howard said this would be a balanced reproduction of the facts that were excluded from Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo.
“It won’t be like Argo, where you have the Americans coming in and saving the hostages, but you will also see the way they worked at arming the Shah.”
He believes the Iranian government has a legitimate reason to be offended by the skewed narration of the revolution in the movie.
“Argo tells you a story in which Iran is painted in a very dark way and the Islamic Revolution has one dimension – where people were tortured.”
Argo was banned in Iran but residents managed to acquire bootleg versions of the film.
In January, the Iranian government said it would back a big- budget movie by a local movie- maker to correct the alleged misconceptions floated by Argo.
Ataollah Salmanian, a writer and filmmaker in Iran, told the local press that the proposed movie The General Staff would be about 20 American hostages who were delivered to the US by the revolutionaries.
Though unrelated to the Iranian film, the film with Kingsley may provide a larger voice to the Iranian cause.
Michelle Nicholson, a producer with Mena CineFinance, said they have been invited by the Iranian cultural ministry to shoot at the Shah’s Palace.
“To be able to shoot there will provide that authenticity and personal touch that I would like in the movie,” says Nicholson.
“His personal life interacts with his political life, so the location is very important. We also want to portray him as a family man, who was detached from his political figure.”
At the same time, Howard said, they do not want to take sides.
“We just want to make a good movie with the facts. And the relationship the Shah had with America and all the manipulation is what makes it interesting. He was an incredible diplomat and strategist. He had a vision to become the financial centre in the Middle East,” says Howard.
Terry Stone of Gateway Films said they plan to sign on an Oscar- nominated writer who has tackled historical dramas in the past.
“We need someone A-rated to work with Sir Kingsley,” said Stone, whose production house makes independent films.
“To get Gandhi to play Shah, that is great. All our other efforts need to match that,” said Stone, referring to Kingsley’s portrayal of the Indian pacifist and politician M K Gandhi in the 1982 biopic Gandhi.
“It is uncanny, but he even looks like the Shah.”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shah, Starring Sir Ben Kingsley

Our first film from MENACF is Shah, starring Sir Ben Kingsley as Mohammed Reza Shah, the last Shah of Iran. The story will focus on the last two years of Shah's life, and the intrigue and events that led to his exile from Iran.

Gateway Films and Kingsley's Lavender Pictures are our co-production partners. The film is being done as an indie feature, and could best be described as a cross between The King's Speech and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

I have been invited by the Ministry of Culture in Iran, through our associate Bahran Heidari, to film in Iran. To be able to shoot some scenes in Shah's Palace would be an amazing addition to the project, we will see how this moves forward.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PSA for the Abu Dhabi Autism Center

We are very proud to have been a part of this PSA through Women in Film and Television (WIFT) UAE. It helps bring attention to Autism and the Abu Dhabi Autism Center

The brainchild of Manar al Hinai of InvestAD, the PSA has been shown before every feature at VOX Cinemas to help bring awareness to the Center, and there is an interest to show it on Etihad Airways. Manar asked us if we could support this, and the fearless team of Annette Waddington, Hana Makki, director David Moore and DOP Marcel Beck (and myself as producer) put this together. Great job guys!

Watch the ADAC PSA
We are hosting a celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Women in Film at the beautiful Paris Sorbonne, Abu Dhabi on Nov. 1st and 2nd. The schedule of events are on the event FB page

H.E. Sh. Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Youth, Culture and Social Development, will be attending the Opening Ceremony as the event's Patron.

If you are in the UAE and would like to meet the media professionals here, please stop by. The event, screenings and lectures are all free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Variety Arabia Summit Dubai

I was the moderator at the Variety Arabia Media Summit. 
The panel discussion was for Women in Media in the Middle East.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

HCT Graduation Abu Dhabi

Going to the HCT Women's College Graduation tonight to check out their short films. Should be fun!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Dream Players, Abu Dhabi

Here's your chance to check out the hottest local talent in the UAE!

The Dream Players will be taking their show to the Al Wahda Mall this Thursday, April 19th. The show starts at 7, see you there.

Comic Con Middle East

Women in Film and Television, UAE will have a presence at the upcoming Middle East Film and Comic Con, MEFCC on April 20 through 21, at the Dubai International Marine Club, in the Dubai Marina.

ExtraCake PRE who is running the eveny is WIFT UAE's promotional company and they do an amazing job. Stop by and say Hello!

Check out their website at

Variety Arabia Media Summit

I will be the moderator at the Variety Arabia Media Summit on April 18th and 19th in Dubai, UAE. This is the first media summit to be held in the Middle East. The panel discussion is Women in Film-Their influence behind/in front of the Camera, and in the Audience.

The panelist are Sarah Al Jarman, Channel Manager, Dubai One TV, Dubai, UAE; Rula Nasser, independent film producer, Amman Jordan; Nayla Al Khaja, fi lmmaker and founder of D-Seven Motion Pictures, Dubai, UAE and Annemarie Jacir, independent filmmaker, Amman, Jordan.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

TEDx Ajman, March 31, 2012

I was asked to present at TEDx Ajman this Sat., March 31st. My presentation is...The Entrepreneur's get to figure out what the word is!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gulf Connoisseur Magazine Column, More Musings

It's a very beautiful magazine about fashion, food, and the finer things in life, throughout the Gulf. The column is on page 78. Enjoy!

Variety Arabia Media Summit

I was asked to be the moderator for the Variety Arabia Media Summit in April, in Dubai. Should be an interesting event, with lots of good speakers. Stop by!

World Story Telling Day

I was a guest at the World Story Telling Day at the heritage Village in Abu Dhabi. Our children's novella, Antar and Haider the Lion, was one of the stories told to the kid's there. Dedra and I plan on doing these little story books until there is a collection for a hard cover book. It is available on Amazon Kindle.

Women's Voices from the Muslim World

I have been REALLY bad about not posting...but we have launched Women in Film and Television, UAE, Since the launch in Oct. 2011, we had a short film contest, sent a delegate to the Berlin Film Festival, had two lectures and filmed a documentary at the Al Daferah Festival.

Last week we held a short film festival in honor of International Women's Day, called Women's Voices from the Muslim World. It was graciously supported by HH Sh. Sultan bin Zayed's Culture and Media Centre.

We did get a lot of local ladies and some very spirited discussions!

This was one of my favorite short films from the festival. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mabruk to Egypt!

As I have quite a few Egyptian friends and business associates here in the UAE, I was watching the Mubarak protest with interest.

It's hard to imagine being an American, what their lives have been like. Make no mistake, there are a lot of things in the US that are broken, but we have the opportunity to at least address the issues. Many Egyptians had to leave their own country to find work, as opportunities there are scarce. Around 40% of the population live on $2 a day or less, that is not living, it's barely existing.

I have gotten caught up in the unfolding drama, one of my friends lost a family member in a shooting. But the Egyptians did it and they did it with class, their heads held up. It's amazing to see all types of people, young, old, poor, educated, standing in Tahrir Square. asking for nothing more than what we all should have a right to ask for, our freedom.

Mabruk to the Egyptian people! It will be exciting to see what unfolds in Egypt now.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Making the movie

We launched a film fund with a wealth management company in Zurich, which went well. Jason Marsh, the fund manager, is no longer involved with the Antar the Black Knight project, that has been somewhat stressful, but these things happen.

Making this movie is a movie in itself! Unfortunately it has been a LOT harder that it has to be, but dealing with so many different people is a challenge.

Lots of good things moving forward with the franchise as far as some of the merchandise and animated series.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MENA CineFinances

I have been terrible about blogging....but I have been REALLY busy! We just launched our film fund MENA CineFinances. I am posting the press release. I'm going to start blogging about the trials and tribulations of getting Antar made!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From Iran

As some people know, I was approved to go to Iran 10 days before the election to film Obviously I did not go, but received this. I will continue to post emails as I get them.


Ali wrote11 hours ago credit to under Ali reports his own observations on the course of events of 15th June 2009 in Tehran. Credit to lahaf @pfdAlireza A

I left my home in Tajrish along with my family at 3 p.m. We went down Valiast Street which is the main northern-southern avenue in Tehran and entered the Evin Exp'way which leads to Enghelab Street . We knew that people are supposed to gather in Enghelab Sq. (Revolution Sq.) at 4 and march toward Azadi Sq. (Freedom Sq.). From Gisha Bridge onwards, we saw people walking down. Cars were blowing their horns and people were showing victory sign. We went to Navvab Street and parked our car at the end of the street. Then we took a taxi to bring us back to the Enghelab Street . On our way, near Jomhouri Sq. (Republic Sq.), I saw a group of about 20 militia with long beards and batons on motorbikes. My hand was out of the car window with a little green ribbon (the sign of reformists) around my finger. One of the militia told me to throw that ribbon away. I showed him a finger. All of a sudden, about 15 people attacked me inside the car. They beat me with their batons and wanted to pull me out. My wife and my daughter who were sitting in the back seat cried and hold me tight. I also hold myself tight on the chair. They wanted to shatter the car windows. The driver went out and explained that he is a taxi and we are his passengers and he has no fault. After about 5 minutes,they left. My elbow hurts severely. Then, a young man from their group came and kissed my elbow! I told him: You know, I don't hate you. I am like you with the only difference that I know more and you are ignorant. He apologized and left.We joined the crowd in Enghelab Street .

Read carefully:

What I saw today was the most elegant scene I had ever witnessed in my life. The huge number of people were marching hand in hand in full peace. Silence. Silence was everywhere. There was no slogan. No violence. Hands were up in victory sign with green ribbons. People carried placards which read: Silence. Old and young, man and woman of all social groups were marching cheerfully. This was a magnificent show of solidarity. Enghelab Street which is the widest avenue in Tehran was full of people. I was told that the march has begun in Ferdowsi Sq. and the end of the march was now in Imam Hossein Sq. to the further east of Tehran while on the other end people had already gathered in Azadi Sq. The length of this street is about 6 kilometers. The estimate is about 2 million people. On the way, we passed a police department and a militia (Baseej) base. In both places, the doors were closed and we could see fully-armed riot police and militia watching the people from behind the fences. Near Sharif University of Technology where the students had chased away Ahmadinejad a few days ago, Mirhossein Mousavi (the reformist elect president) and Karrubi (the other reformist candidate spoke to people for a few minutes which was received by cries of praise and applause. I felt proud to find myself among such a huge number of passionate people who were showing the most reasonable act of protest. Frankly, I didn't expect such a political maturity from emotional Iranians who easily get excited. My family and I had put stickers on our mouths to represent the suppression. Placards that people carried were different; from poems by the national poet Ahmad Shamlu to light-hearted slogans against Ahmadinejad. Examples include: " To slaughter us/ why did you need to invite us / to such an elegant party" (Poem by Shamlu). " Hello! Hello! 999? / Our votes were stolen" or " The Miracle of the Third Millenium: 2 x 2 = 24 millions" (alluding to the claim by Government that Ahmadinejad obtained 24 million votes) , "Where is my vote?" , " Give me back my vote" and many other.

We arrived in Azadi Square where the entire square was full of population. It is said that around 500,000 people can be accommodated in this huge square and it was full. Suddenly we saw smoke from Jenah Freeway and heard the gunshot. People were scared at first but then went forward. I just heard the gunshots but my sister who had been on the scene at that part told me later that she saw 4 militia came out from a house and shot a girl. Then they shot a young boy in his eye and the bullet came out of his ear. She said that 4 people were shot. At least one person dead has been confirmed. People arrested one of the Baseeji militia but the three others ran away when they ran out of bullet. At around 8 we went back on foot. On the way back people were still in the street and were chanting Allah Akbar (God is Great).

I was coming home at around 2 a.m. In parkway, I saw about ten buses full of armed riot police parked on the side of the street. Then I saw scattered militia in civil clothes with clubs in hand patroling the empty streets. In Tajrish Square , I saw a very young boy (around 16) with a club who was looking at the cars to see if he can find something to attack. I don't know how and under what teachings can young boys change into militia.I came home. Tomorrow, people will gather again in Valiasr Square for another peaceful march toward the IRIB building which controls all the media and which spreads filthy lies. The day before Yesterday, Ahmadinejad had hold his victory ceremony. Government buses had transported all his supporters from nearby cities. There was full coverage of that ceremony where fruit juice and cake was plenty. A maximum of 100,000 had gathered to hear his speech. These included all the militia and the soldiers and all supporters he could gather by the use of free TV publicity. Today, at least 2 million came only relying on word of mouth while reformists have no newspaper, no radio, no TV. All their internet sites are filtered as well as social networks such as facebook. Text messaging and mobile communication was also cut off during the demonstration. Since yesterday, the Iranian TV was announcing that there is no license for any gathering and riot police will severely punish anybody who may demonstrates. Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of "filthy homosexuals". All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event.The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to enage in any violent act.

I feel sad for the loss of those young girls and boys. It is said that they also killed 3 students last night in their attack at Tehran University residence halls. I heard that a number of professors of Sharif University and AmirKabir University (Tehran Polytechnic) have resigned.Democracy is a long way ahead. I may not be alive to see that day. With eyes full of tear in these early hours of Tuesday 16th June 2009, I glorify the courage and bravery of those martyrs and I hope that their blood will make every one of us more committed to freedom, to democracy and to human rights.Viva Freedom, Viva Democracy, Viva Iran

p.s.: If you find this report of any value, please share it with as many people as possible. Facebook is filtered and internet is very slow in Iran . Please somebody put this on facebook.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Memorial Day thoughts

My Mom received a letter that is about soldiers from her hometown who died in WWII. She had an older brother who was 20 years her senior, who died in the war. She did not know him as she was 4 years old when he died.

One part of the letter my Mom received was a copy of the letter that was sent to my Grandmother on the death of her son, Cpl. Adolph Zoeller, Jr. Adolph was killed in the Normandy Invasion. The letter was from Capt. R. Young, his commanding officer.

"Thank you for writing me. I thank you because I cannot write the parents of boys who have been in our company and given their lives for God and country except when their parents write to me after they have received official notification.

I am not a chaplain, a company does not have one. I am Adolph's company commander. I was not present at his burial but I have received official notification that he is buried on the Normandy coast of France with his comrades in arms, who gave their all that this might be a better world to live in.

He was always in this tank company. He was listed as in the infantry because all the armed force is so listed unless they came from the cavalry. As for his personal belongings, you should receive them in time, but due to many, many jobs the Army has to do, it may be some time before they arrive.

I am sorry that I cannot give you some ray of hope, but I believe you would rather know that Adolph has gone to meet his Maker than to keep hoping in vain.

There have been so many, many heroes in this war that they cannot all be acclaimed, but always know that your son was and is one of the unsung heroes who made the landing on the coast of France possible.

He was always thorough and dependable and remained so to the very end. I am proud to have had him in my company.

I know God has blessed your son and may his blessings fall upon you also."

I am not a mother, but I can imagine the pain my Grandmother must have felt on losing her oldest child. It would be the same pain all mothers, be they Americans, Africans, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Israelis, Iranians, Asians, Germans, Russians, mothers from all races, religions and cultures must feel. No one group has the exclusive rights to grief at the loss of a child in battle.

Governments own the wars, but it is all of the mothers and fathers of soldiers who own the grief. While the US Memorial Day honors those who died in battle, those left behind, wherever they are, should be thought of as well.

Adolph was brought back to the US from his burial place in Normandy after WWII ended and laid to rest in Marion Illinois.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Antar of Liwa

We just closed our launch investor for $15m for the pre-production of our film, Antar of Liwa! The investor is from the MENA region.

Needless to say, it has been a lot of work. We think it's a great film franchise as he's an action hero, but the script is true to the original story and brings a lot of Arab influence/culture into play. That's what happens when you have lived in the UAE!

Now we will be contacting talent and it is a mix of International actors. We are also developing an animated series, The Adventures of Antar.

Still not certain if we will actually film in Liwa, as it's rather expensive to film in UAE, but if it makes sense, we will certainly try to. Mansoor Abulhoul in Dubai is heading up the financial investment arm for the film franchise, as we will probably be in LA through the summer dealing with pre-production.
I really miss AD, but should be back soon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

My Visa Refusal Response

I figured that I might as well respond to this...not that it may do any good, but what could it hurt?

This was kindly picked up by Mr. Eftekhari at the Mehr News Agency, the official news agency of Iran and published in both Farsi and English, as well as was published in the Tehran Times.

In November of 2006, President Ahmedinejad published his address to the American people. He stated, “While Divine providence has placed Iran and the United States geographically far apart, we should be cognizant that human values and our common human spirit, which proclaim the dignity and exalted worth of all human beings, have brought our two great nations of Iran and the United States closer together.” It is unfortunate that the Iranian Foreign Ministry does not share his view and have refused our request for visas.

I can understand the frustration regarding the press restrictions imposed on President Ahmedinejad when he visited the US. As free speech is valued in my country and a right granted to its citizens, personally I do not see any reason why it should be an issue for a visiting President. However, I am a private citizen, not a member of my country’s government, nor it’s military or affiliated with a press organization. I have no direct input into government policies, just the same as a private citizen in Iran would have regarding their government’s policies.

It is precisely this frustration we are trying to address. There is so little information available to the West about Iran, and virtually no positive information. It is easy to be angry and frustrated about this, the difficult part is to take responsibility and do something positive to change the situation.

This year, the Iranian people will cast their vote for their President. As Mr. Shamaqdari rightly stated, We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be done to show how democracy works in Iran and how the Iranian people get involved. We are not interested in who wins, but rather what is the process. I don’t see how this could be anything but a positive portrayal of Iran and it’s people, not a sensational one.

I was invited to come to Iran and I take that very seriously. Mr. Shamaqdari and Mr. Eslamloo have both been supportive and generous with their time and information. The Iranian friends and associates I have in the UAE and US all have this quality, they are an open, generous people. We all need to work to promote understanding between different cultures. However this is virtually impossible unless different cultures are allowed to learn more about each other. It is very easy to fear something you don’t understand and prejudice against a religion, race or culture, starts with fear.

I would hope that after some reflection, the Iranian Foreign Ministry would realize that our goal is to be supportive and interested in their democratic process, not negative and that they reverse their decision regarding our coming to Iran to film.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Latest From Iran

Well it seems that while one faction of the Govt. approved my going to Iran, the Foreign Ministry said NO.

I have been told that this can be over I am still waiting and fortunately the Cultural advisor Javad Shamaqdari is in my corner. Patience is needed when dealing with such issues! I am interested to hear that there is a group from Hollywood visiting Iran now (not filming however!) The posted articles are from Iranian site Press TV.

Iran denies US director Nickelson visa? Sat, 14 Feb 2009 17:25:24 GMT

American documentary maker and head of the UAE-based Mirage Holdings Michelle Nickelson has been refused an entry visa into Iran.

Nickelson and her LA crew had obtained permits from the Iranian government to visit the country and make a documentary about its upcoming presidential election. Iran's Foreign Ministry has however denied the American documentary maker and her team entrance to the country.

“Unfortunately the visa denial has delayed Ms. Nickelson's visit to Iran,” film producer Mohammad-Reza Eslamlou told Fars News Agency.

Eslamlou, who was to contribute to the project, criticized the Foreign Ministry's decision saying that the American filmmaker only intended to bridge the gap between Iranians and Americans.

“I wonder why hostile foreign news agencies are allowed to freely make films in Iran and arrange interviews with high-ranking officials but Ms. Nickelson who wants to portray democracy in our country is not welcome,” said Eslamlou.

Michelle Nickelson's We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran was to explore the election process in Iran.

"We want to interview a broad representation of people living there and how it feels for them in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election," Nickelson said in a 2008 interview.

"Most Americans don't realize that, in addition to the Shia, there is also a Jewish and Christian community in Iran and they have representation in the government," she said. TE/HGH

US producer to film Iran elections Sat, 13 Dec 2008 17:22:31 GMT

An Iranian woman casts her ballot.Head of the UAE based Mirage Holdings Michelle Nickelson is slated to make a documentary on Iran's upcoming presidential election.

We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran will explore the election process in the country. "We want to interview a broad representation of people living there and how it feels for them in the run-up to next summer's presidential election," Nickelson said.

"Most Americans don't realize that, in addition to the Shi'ah, there is also a Jewish and Christian community in Iran and they have representation in the government," she added.

According to Hollywood Reporter, Nickelson and her LA crew have obtained permits from the Iranian government to visit the country next year and scout for locations as well as finding interviewees.

This is while the cultural adviser to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Javad Shamaqdari has announced that Nickelson's documentary will portray democracy in Iran and is not intended as an election advertisement for the incumbent president. TE/HGH

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Iran and Etihad

FINALLY...We got the visas through and can now head to Iran. Many thanks to Reza Eslamloo and Javad Shamaghdari for their help with this.

We are now looking at going to Iran after the first of the year. Still waiting on a response with Etihad, but like everything else, this takes time.

I got a very nice email from Eason Jordon, who was the head of CNN news during the Gulf War. He wrote, "Asrar is a hero, and it'd be wonderful if her story were told." We will be having Mr. Jordon as a consultant on the film.

It's a great part for an actress, let's just hope that the women we are interested in think the same thing! With a film like Defiance coming out with Daniel Craig about the Polish and Russian Resistance fighters during WWII, we feel that Etihad will have an audience as well.

That Asrar not only fought with the Resistance for her country, but also saved Americans and Brits who were left behind, really is an amazing story. She gave the ultimate sacrifice, her life for what she believed in. It does give a completely different look at Arab women and the whole Eastern/Western idea.

The more I'm learning about Asrar Al Qabandi, I feel really fortunate to be involved with this film. There are so few stories about women heroes out there.

"Death is more universal than life; everyone dies, but not everyone lives." A. Sachs

Friday, December 5, 2008

4 years

I just realized that it was my 4 year anniversary on being in the UAE!

OK, I'm in LA at the moment, but on Dec 4, 2004, I turned up in Dubai not knowing a soul...and it has been an amazing ride since then!

Big Cat Rescue was sold (article in Gulf News) and I finally got my visa permission just yesterday (4 must be a GOOD number for me!) to go to Iran to film our documentary, We the People of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is about the Presidential Election process in Iran, as their election is coming up.

For our film Etihad, it is currently with a Hollywood actress to see what she thinks about being involved. My partner on this is HH Sha. Al Zain Al Sabah of Kuwait. Etihad is about Asrar Al Qabandi, a US educated Kuwaiti woman, who was the backbone of the Kuwait Resistance during the Gulf War. Asrar was eventually captured, tortured, raped and killed, 2 days before Desert Storm started. It's an amazing story about an Arab woman who ended up giving the ultimate sacrifice for what she believed in.

We are also developing a film called Antar of Liwa, The Black Knight, about the Arab/African hero, Antar. It's with the Media Council in Abu Dhabi at the moment, as we would like to film it in Liwa.

So it's been a good 4 years and we are looking forward to many more.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I think the entire election process was amazing, even though I did not vote. I'm glad Obama won, however, I think he faces a daunting uphill climb.

What I do think is fantastic about Obama winning is that it gives people hope. The idea that a man with an ethnic background can run and be elected as the President of the United States is in itself, a victory for everyone.

When you think about, US Presidents have always been rather wealthy white guys. If Obama can do it, why not a woman, or an Asian American, or a Mexican American? Why not indeed!

His story is inspiring in itself, apart from the fact he is now going to be the President. Can he make changes? We can only wait and see what happens. But Americans love the underdog, we like to root for the guy who succeeds against impossible odds and this energy maybe what will help him get things accomplished. I hope so.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I was fortunate enough to get a copy of Oliver Stone's W script, as we had some investors in the GCC who wanted to look at investing in films. In the end, most thought it was to controversial.

It really is a good story, and I don't think it's controversial at all. It's out there...but it makes you think, which IMO is what a good film should do.

I believe it is in a trailer for Bill Maher's film, Religulous, where there is a clip of Bush. Apparently he is answering a question on foreign policy (you don't hear the question) His answer is along the lines of "I believe that God wants everyone to be free, so that is the basis of my foreign policy."

Now that is not verbatim, but close to what is on the clip. How ignorant can someone sound? Even if you are deeply religious, which is one's personal right, to express this goes beyond insane. Whose God is he talking about? How pompous that he believes that if "his God" says must be so.

I am not arguing that freedom is a negative thing, but by making such a statement, you are not taking into consideration other people's concept of what God is or isn't.

No wonder he is the worst President the US has had. Anyway, I would recommend seeing W, and I am going to see Religulous. Curious if either will play in the GCC.....

Sammy the Shark

While I am still in Los Angeles, I have been reading the UAE news online.

I really think the current "Save Sammy" campaign is fantastic. The issue itself, keeping an endangered animal captive in violation of CITES, is a slap in the face to the UAE Federal Govt.

Yes it's true that there are certainly other important things to address in the UAE, like the rights of laborers. However, when a high profile establishment like Atlantis is allowed to openly defy an initiative that the Federal Govt. signed on with, the message it sends is not good. The whole idea of protecting endangered animals is so that we can keep them from becoming extinct. One could argue, "If Atlantis can do this, why can't I?" and before you know it people don't pay attention to what CITES initiative is working to accomplish.

However, I think the really fantastic bit of this is, that the public is getting involved with the campaign. Social conscience has long been a part of America's history. Americans have openly railed against our government, big business and other groups they felt were not leaving a positive contribution. This freedom of expression is protected by law. I won't deny that there have been abuses of this, but the concept of freedom of expression is a positive one. Taken to the extreme, California is one of the states that has something to say publicly about just about everything!

Even though the laws are different in the UAE, most Nationals I have met are just as vocal in what they believe and just as concerned about current issues. However, it appears that it is not their custom to voice these opinions openly (but that is changing with some of the talented Emirati bloggers) The people who are wearing the "Save Sammy" buttons are in reality, staging a polite protest and expressing their social conscience, and Gulf News posting their photos is giving this campaign legitimacy.

Hopefully, Atlantis decides to do something sooner than later because of the negative press and releases Sammy, or the Federal Govt. intervenes.

Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.- Albert Einstein

Gulf News

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This is an except from the LA Times. Zbigniew Brzezinski served as national security advisor to President Carter and is considered to be a well respected figure in American foreign policy.

Brzezinski: It can be a catalyst. Not for actions directed by the United States but for actions that the local community -- maybe we can call them stakeholders in a global system -- is prepared collectively to embrace. That kind of leadership is needed. But for that kind of leadership to emerge in America, we not only need very special people as leaders -- and they do come up occasionally -- but we need a far more enlightened society than we have.

I think Americans are curiously, paradoxically, simultaneously very well-educated and amazingly ignorant. We are a society that lives within itself. We're not interested in the history of other countries.

Today we have a problem with Iran. How many Americans know anything about Iranian history? Do they know that it is a bifurcated history? There have been two Irans. And those two different periods, pre-Islamic and post-Islamic, dialectically define the tensions and the realities of Iran today. [Americans] know nothing about it.

Quite a few Americans entering college could not locate Great Britain on the map. They couldn't locate Iraq on the map after five years of war. Thirty percent couldn't identify the Pacific Ocean. We don't teach global history; we don't teach global geography. I think most Americans don't have the kind of sophistication that an America that inspires, and thereby leads, will have to have if it is to do what this 21st century really will demand of us.

OK, I consider myself to be one of the well educated/exceptionally curious Americans. I can certainly tell you where Great Britain is, know about Iranian history, Iraq, Islam, countries of the GCC, etc. It never ceases to amaze me that when I am in the US and start to talk about traveling, and living in the UAE, people are mesmerized.

Come on people...READ! We have the Internet, look things up and learn something. Americans always think the Arabs must be ignorant...the fact is the average Emirati/Qatari/Kuwaiti is usually better educated than the average American. As I've not yet been to Iran, I'm going to guess it's the same there, judging by the Iranians I know who are all well travelled and up on current events.

But the thing I have experienced that I feel is amazing is that most people you speak to, especially in the GCC, have nothing but good things to say about Americans. If you talk to Emiratis in their late 30's to mid 50's, most either went to school in the US, or travelled there. The stories they tell reflect a fondness for the experiences they had. Most don't understand our Govt. but then, neither do I!

It's really a shame, Americans don't have the respect we once had internationally. Respect is something that is earned and we certainly need to examine this.

East meets West

This is probably not PC, but here goes.

There are so many people here in the US with the idea of "let's go get money from the Arabs." Especially in the film industry, since AD is getting into film financing.

There is never any thought as to "Who are these people? Maybe I would like to get to know them." I remember reading an article and an unnamed Emirati commented, "What do they think we are ATM machines?" Unfortunately YES.

The other point is that during the Presidential conventions, people kept talking about the "evil oil mongers in the Middle East," and similar quotes.

Correct me, but the last time I checked, with the exception of Iran, everyone else in the GCC the US buys oil from is a US ally...hhmmm, perhaps I missed something?

If the US keeps looking to the GCC for bailouts, then we should make it a priority to include them and not use them as a sound byte. What if every time we talked about the Germans we said "those Nazis." It's just as horrible. The perception put out is that somehow the Arabs (because they have oil) are rotten and responsible for our economic mess. If gas was cheaper, it would be cheaper to travel, ship goods, etc.

News flash...OUR Government is responsible for this mess.

So if we keep wanting the Arabs to bail us out...then we HAVE to start including them and quit with the negative BS. Otherwise, don't take their money.

On the flip side, now is the perfect time for the GCC countries to insist that the US cut the negative BS about them. Remember the Golden Rule...the guy with the gold makes the rules!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Estrogen Challenged.....

OK (still in US) today I got talked into going to a candle party with my Mom. Actually the woman giving it is a friend of my Mom's whom I've met and she is lovely, so I decided to go and say "hello."

I have to admit, I did not get the girly gene. I don't become visibly anxious when shoe stores have sales. The sight of small children does not make me become a blithering idiot.

I was always the one in jeans riding horses. While I will get decked out for the right reason, I spend most days being rather casual, and can't be bothered to wear makeup. However I do shave my legs and date men exclusively.

So going to any kind of girly gathering is a stretch for me....and bridal and baby showers are an absolute "NO WAY." But the interesting thing is, I have been to a few of these type of parties in the UAE, thrown by some of the Sheikhas. Not candle parties, but over there, women have all female parties, with the exception of young male children.

They do the same things and talk about the same things...and everyone leaves with a gift. No difference.

Now if there would only have girly parties for women that like to talk about business and building empires...sign me up!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Perfect Family....

They live at the corner listed below....thanks AW for the photo.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Presidential Conventions

In honor of the fact that there is simply NOTHING on TV for 2 weeks because of the conventions, I thought I would post these verses from a former US President;

"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure."

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

"I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends."

These are all quotes from Abraham Lincoln. I think they apply now even more than they did back in his day. You wonder if McCain or Obama would ever be the kind of President someone like Lincoln was. I think with all the special interest groups and lobbyists, it's impossible.


This is one of the things I miss when I am in the UAE. I mean, where else can you go and buy a 5 gallon bucket of mayonnaise?

Not that I would ever NEED that much mayonnaise, but it's comforting to know that if I wanted it...I could buy it. Besides, if you go into Costco hungry, you can wander around and eat all the free samples, so by the time you leave, you don't have to worry about what's for dinner.

In the UAE we have Carrefour, it's a French chain of grocery stores. As you might imagine, their bakery and cheese section is to die for, but the rest of the food...well they're French brands, what can I say?

We also have Spinney's and Abela's, these are British. I don't know, but if I am going to put catsup (or ketchup) on something, I want it to be Heinz, not some kind I've never heard of.

Then there's that silly "British English." My friend asked me to "Get a trolley." Now to me, a trolley is that thing that looks like an electric train and it's on the front of the Rice-A-Roni box. (not seen in UAE markets) As I stood there looking stupid, she said, "The thing to put the groceries in." Oh yes.

And what about trousers vs pants; hoover vs vacuum; bathroom vs loo and lounge vs living room? I must say I am doing well with this, only to come back to LA and have to switch again.

Back to the simple things, a single person like me can buy toilet paper (or loo rolls) at Costo in the 40 roll package and have a supply for a whole year. I miss that....