As Hollywood gears up for the 88th Academy Awards to be held on February 28, 2016, the Kingdom of Jordan has once again provided the backdrop for three key Oscar contenders in two categories.
Jordan, the famed Middle Eastern monarchy of stability and safety located on the east bank of the Jordan River, boasts a diversity of locations and a strong production infrastructure that have lured top film and television productions for decades. Oscar has often honored classic movies shot in Jordan with its top awards, including giving prizes to “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade,” “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
At this year’s glittery ceremony, “The Martian” contends for Best Picture and in six other categories, after director Ridley Scott chose Jordan’s UNESCO World Heritage site of Wadi Rum as a stand in for the red planet. Best Foreign Film contender “Theeb” (Jordan’s own nominated entry), director Naji Abu Nowar’s BAFTA award-winning coming-of-age story set amidst World War I was also shot in Wadi Rum, creating a completely different representation of that spectacular sandstone valley. And “A War,” Denmark’s Best Foreign Film nominee, used other striking locations in Jordan to tell its more modern story of conflict, as it follows Danish soldiers fighting during the recent war in Afghanistan.
There are good reasons that filmmakers as well as television crews from around the world often choose Jordan – a veritable modern promised land of opportunity -- as the place to work their creative magic. The Royal Film Commission - Jordan provides both local and international productions with comprehensive services, ranging from scouting and suggesting spectacular locations (both wildly natural and sophisticatedly urban ones) to offering a modern infrastructure, skilled crews, financial benefits, tax incentives (including exemptions of the 16-percent sales tax, customs duties and the withholding tax on foreign crews), no- or low-cost permitting fees and an always secure environment in this country that is universally acknowledged as the safest county in both the Middle East and the entire Arab world.
And all these advantages are found in a place where English is widely spoken, the weather is generally moderate and unique, unspoiled ancient historical and multi-religious sites offer a breathtaking choice of visual possibilities. Is it any wonder that the world’s best filmmakers, including Ridley Scott (who shot both “The Martian” and “Prometheus” here) and Kathryn Bigelow (who made two Oscar-winning movies, “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” in Jordan), have returned time after time to make films in this welcoming country?
In fact, Jordan’s Royal Film Commission goes far and beyond just being welcoming to both foreign and domestic projects; the organization is dedicated to consistently helping top-notch productions create unforgettable stories and images while keeping costs well in check. It’s a continuing success story that has led to the country being nicknamed the “Hollywood of the Middle East,” with “X-Men: Apocalypse” (slated for release worldwide in May 2016) as the next American blockbuster that used Jordan as a backdrop for the action.
George David, Managing Director of the Royal Film Commission – Jordan is available for interviews to help put this continuing story into perspective. He can speak to the Jordanian government’s strong support of international productions (from streamlining visa clearances and permits to assisting with local casting and crew recruiting, suggesting appropriate production facilities and more) as well as the many reasons Jordan is the place in the Middle East for top-notch productions.
A comprehensive guide to filming in Jordan can be found at www.film.jo, with the current Production Directory offering an up-to-date list of services available across the country at www.film.jo/files/ProductionDirectory2015v2.pdf.