aymen khoja
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  • Director & New York Film Academy Grad Aymen Khoja’s Feature Debut is First American-Saudi Film Collaboration

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    The Arabian Warrior is not only the very first American-Saudi film production, but has also celebrated its premiere in Saudi Arabia at a historic moment, just as the Kingdom celebrates the opening of its movie theaters for the fist time in 35 years. The film follows Anmar, a young Saudi man who dreams of becoming a professional football player. It’s a deeply human story about navigating the tension between following one’s dreams, honoring one’s family and traditions, and finding one’s own way in a complicated world.

    After an incredibly successful red carpet premiere covered by major news networks in Dubai, the film is screening across the Middle East with Grand Entertainment — and soon the world, with a distribution deal with MultiVisionnaire Pictures, and an upcoming digital release on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

    In the midst of his busy opening month, director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Aymen Khoja found the time to sit down with the NYFA Blog via email to talk about the film, the Dubai screening, and what’s next.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    AK: Passion and ambition. My active soul pulled my body from all the challenges I faced to the city of angels to study what I’ve dreamed of: becoming a filmmaker!

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most?

    AK: Filmmaking is the best way to get into people hearts! People would listen when they see things through films more than if you talk to them face to face. Plus, I love inspiring people with what I believe is right. Also, I love putting a smile on people’s faces!  

    NYFA: Can you tell us what brought The Arabian Warrior project to life? How did the film come about for you?

    AK: Young people always fight to achieve their goals against their parents, society, or any challenges could stand in front of them. I wanted to explain the pressure young people face when it comes to making their choices about what they want to be in the future.

    NYFA: The Arabian Warrior tells a story that highlights some tensions between a young man with a dream to pursue a non-traditional career, and his parents’ concerns for his future. What resonated with you about this story?

    AK: I’ve seen this situation around me with friends, family. To me the most important question is, how can the son reach his goals but at the same time respect his parents?  

     

    The Arabian Warrior poster via IMDB

    NYFA: Congratulations on screening The Arabian Warrior in Dubai! How did this event come about? Can you tell us a bit about the process of organizing the screening and how it feels leading up to the screening?

    AK: Thank you! It feels wonderful.

    I’d love to thank Dubai for welcoming my first of all time film premier! It was a super exciting process from very the beginning, when we signed Grand Entertainment to distribute our film in the Arab region.

    Big thanks to Isaac, who really worked everything out! It just can’t get better!

    Our film played in 48 theaters all over the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Fantastic success. I thank God, and everyone who helped me with this achievement.   

    NYFA: Did anything surprise you during filming, or where there any hurdles you overcame? Any words of wisdom for our students from your production experience?

    AK: A lot of surprises and many challenges, from losing locations, working with actors, staying within the budget, getting creative shots to save the day, etc.

    Advice I can give: be collaborative. Listen. Build a fantastic positive team. Move on. Don’t get stuck with one challenge; fix it and move on.

    Director Aymen Khoja via IMDB

    NYFA: What’s next for The Arabian Warrior?

    AK: It will be released on digital platforms in the U.S. and Canada: Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. We’ve signed with an international distributor worldwide, MultiVisionnaire. The film already has been released on TV, in some part of Asia and Africa.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    AK: I’m developing three projects at the same time. I prefer not to speak about them now, but all what I can say is, they will see light soon inshallah!  

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    AK: NYFA is one of the main reasons for me to be at this place. I can’t thank NYFA enough. Instructors, environment, departments, classmates, everyone were super helpful. They gave me all the knowledge I needed for this wonderful journey in creating my first feature  film! I’m still in touch with all my instructors, we became like a family! Thank you, family of NYFA, from my heart.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Aymen for his interview, and congratulate him and Mohammad on the great success of The Arabian Warrior

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  • NYFA Grad’s “Shoot” Premieres at Arab Cinema Lab

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    shootSaudi director and New York Film Academy alumnus Aymen Khoja recently screened his soccer-themed film “Shoot” at the inaugural edition of the Arab Cinema Lab at DIFF. What makes the story unique is the fact that the main character is from Saudi Arabia. The privately-financed production is Saudi Arabia’s fourth-ever feature-length film.

    Egyptian actor El-Masry, best known internationally for his roles in “Rosewater” and “The Night Manager,” stars as a young Saudi expat in Los Angeles with dreams of pursuing a soccer career in the city against the wishes of his traditional father. The film also includes actors Patrick Fabian, Ayman Samman and US soccer star Bryan Jordan.

    “I’ve always loved soccer, and we all know there aren’t many movies that focus on soccer,” said Khoja. “So, I decided to challenge myself and write one, and I told myself it had to be low budget.”

    “As we all know movies can bring the world together, so I was really encouraged to write the story and pushed myself to make it happen,” added Khoja. “We don’t typically see a lot of movies that speak to Arabs in America.”

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    The New York Film Academy Los Angeles alumnus wrote, produced and directed the film under the auspices of his Santa Monica and Jeddah-based Khoja Bros label.

    “NYFA provided me with a lot of knowledge,” said Khoja. “Not only how to direct a movie, but also how to write, how to produce, and how to use all the other elements: music, sound, color, production design, etc. NYFA has great staff. Without their help I wouldn’t be able to make the movie.”

    Khoja is now developing a second film that will also marry both US and Arab cultures — a thriller about the kidnapping of a young Saudi student by a ruthless gangster.

    “We need more Saudi filmmakers to make feature films,” says Khoja. “They need to be brave to make the decision and have the commitment. I care about telling stories and helping in developing our cinema industry.”

    His aims for “Shoot” to have a limited theatrical release worldwide before online streaming platforms and TV.

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  • NYFA Students Launch Web Series Tackling US-Arab Racial Conflicts

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    aymenAlArabiya, the largest and most respected Middle Eastern news outlet, has given a huge boost to the social media efforts of a group of New York Film Academy students who have teamed up to create the thought-provoking web series, SargoWithin one week of airing on YouTube, the series trailer reached over 100,000 views and interest continues to grow.

    Filmmaker Aymen Khoja (May ’14 MFA Feature Track Filmmaker) has written and directed the web series about a young Saudi guy who is kidnapped by two dim but dangerous men. The audience must ponder: ‘Will he be able to find his way to freedom or arrive home in a box?’

    The series tackles relevant topics such as U.S. and Arab racial bias and racial profiling.

    Khoja, in development at NYFA for his first feature film, Shoot, has assembled a team of currently enrolled NYFA students for the series. Working both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, NYFA students are:

    • Creator, writer/director AYMEN KHOJA (May ’14 MFA Feature Track Filmmaking)
    • Producers MUHAMMAD ALAWI (Fall ’15 BFA Producing) and ALMOTAZ ALJEFRI (January ’13 BFA Filmmaking)
    • Actors MAAN BIN ABDULRAHMAN (January ’13 BFA Filmmaking) and JUSTIN LIGHTFOOT (May ’14 BFA Acting)
    • Social media TALHA BIN ABDULRAHMAN (September ’13 BFA Filmmaking)

    The AlArabiya interview can be viewed below:

    Congratulations, NYFA students on your outstanding collaborative effort!

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    February 3, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4072