In Dubai talk, Legendary American Filmmaker Spike Lee opens up about filming in Makkah

Spike Lee was the headline speaker at On.Dxb. File/AFP
Updated 24 November 2019

In Dubai talk, Legendary American Filmmaker Spike Lee opens up about filming in Makkah

  • Spike Lee opened up about his ancestry, dream projects and offered advice to aspiring filmmakers
  • The American director also shared his experiences about filming in Makkah

DUBAI: On Saturday, renowned US director and filmmaker Spike Lee sat down with excited guests at the inaugural ON.DXB — an event dedicated to film, gaming, music and video — in Dubai's Studio City. During the jam-packed headline talk, Lee opened up about his ancestry (Cameroonian-Sierra Leonian), dream projects (a Babe Ruth and Joe Louis biopic) and offered his expert tips and advice to budding filmmakers from the region (“Tell your story. Write what you know and know what to write.”)

During the panel talk, Lee also opened up about filming the 1992 drama “Malcolm X” in Makkah.

The multi-award-winning production, which depicts the life of the revolutionary African-American activist, was the first film in history to be granted permission to shoot in the holy site.

To create the sequence in which Malcolm, portrayed by actor Denzel Washington, fulfills his life-changing pilgrimage to Hajj, an all-Muslim movie crew was hired and given permission to bring their cameras into the city.

“It was a long talk with the highest Islamic court,” shared the iconic filmmaker. “They recognized who Malcolm X was and we had to hire a Muslim crew to shoot the footage for it,” he revealed.

Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the site.

The location footage included hundreds of thousands of pilgrims circling the Kaaba. The rest of the Hajj scenes were filmed in another location, Cairo, using a replica of the Makkah.

The film was shot in Makkah, Cairo and South Africa. Supplied

“We’ve shot in Makkah, we shot in Cairo and we finished the film in South Africa, where the late and great Nelson Mendela ends the film, so I definitely have an interest in coming back to the motherland,” he said.

Lee, 62, made his film debut with “She’s Gotta Have It,” a provocative 1986 feature that told the story of the liberation of a young black woman named Nola Darling. Since then, he’s made over 20 films, including “Inside Man,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Bamboozled.” In 2018, he released a new movie, “BlacKkKlansman,” that earned him his very first Oscar. 

The Arabic songs that defined the decade

Cheb Khaled's 2012 hit "C'est La Vie" is one of the biggest hits of the decade. AFP
Updated 12 min 51 sec ago

The Arabic songs that defined the decade

DUBAI: To end the 2010s on a high note, we’re looking back at some of the Arab world’s biggest hits of the decade.  

‘Elli Baana’

Released by Lebanese star Ragheb Alama in 2018, this break up song has more than 69 million views on YouTube.

‘Boshret Kheir’

Despite being geared towards Egypt, Emirati pop singer Hussein Al-Jassmi’s 2014 hit “Boshret Kheir” was popular across the region.

‘Talat Daqat’

“Talat Daqat,” the 2017 hit, was by Egypt’s Abu featuring iconic film star Yousra. The song’s video clip was shot in El-Gouna during the first film festival held in the city. 

‘C’est La Vie’

The song, by Algerian raï singer Cheb Khaled, was released in 2012. The song is bilingual, with the main verses in Algerian Arabic and the chorus in French. 

‘Shou Helou’

This song, released in 2017, is by the Lebanese singer, actor and composer Ziad Bourji. It was made for his movie “Bel Ghalat.” 

‘Eish Besho’ak’

Tamer Hosny’s latest album in 2018 featured the hit “Eish Besho’ak.” The song was sung not only by his Arab fans, but also non-Arabic speakers. The song has more than  94 million views on YouTube alone.