Where to watch independent films in the UAE

Butheina Kazim, co-founder of Cinema Akil.

Independent cinema platforms are multiplying in the UAE — but each has something different to offer.

With Cinema Akil reopening in Warehouse 68 last week, and Diff365@Vox launching at Mall of the Emirates in April, UAE moviegoers have more say than ever when it comes to what films they can watch on the big screen.

Butheina Kazim, co-founder of Cinema Akil, told Gulf News tabloid! these spaces complement each other.

“They all serve different purposes and they’re all going to have their specialisation. If you go to Diff365, it’s great, because you’re getting the Vox, multiplex experience still intact,” said Kazim.

While Diff365@Vox screens indie films at a dedicated theatre, cinema nine, in Mall of the Emirates, Cinema Akil is more nomadic, using a ‘pop-up’ module so that every season of programming is held in a different location. Their focus extends beyond films to the creation of alternative spaces for viewers to connect with one another.

“We consciously decided not to put WiFi in the space, so that people can talk to each other and talk about the film or what they’ve seen or experienced together,” said Kazim.

“We’ve never had an HQ, we’ve never had a home base, therefore, every time you come to a Cinema Akil programme, it’s a different thing… People in Dubai and the community in the UAE are craving something different — a different type of cinema and conversation.”

Their latest programme, for example, NowPlaying presented by Cinema Akil and Alserkal Avenue, has attracted a crowd interested in “the experiential idea of a cinema inside a warehouse and the impermanence of that. People want to see what that looks like,” said Kazim.


The phrase ‘independent cinema’ has long run the risk of scaring off the average moviegoer. It’s associated with highbrow, exclusive crowds, like art museums or posh exhibits. But Kazim is working to combat that ‘intimidating…

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