Film Sector

For decades, Jordan has served as the setting for a wide range of iconic cinema moments, supplying the desert scenery explored by actors Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in 1962, as well as the stark, rocky terrain traversed by Matt Damon in the 2015 blockbuster, ‘The Martian’. However, the country’s own domestic film industry remains relatively young, providing opportunities to local filmmakers who are eager to make up for lost time and affirm the industry’s standing as a leader in the region.

Stepping into the Spotlight

Jordan’s reputation as a destination for television and film productions was built upon its crucial contributions to local and regional features, with Jordanian companies traditionally focusing their efforts on educational programs, historical dramas and dubbing. Meanwhile, the country’s tech-savvy population embraced digital content production, enabling Jordan to become the leading source for Arabic online content.

Grassroots attempts to promote independent filmmaking began to gain momentum in Jordan in the early 2000s with the emergence of the Amman Filmmakers Cooperative and the subsequent Jordan Short Film Festival. In 2003, the sector was formalized with the establishment of the Royal Film Commission – Jordan (RFC), marking the dawn of a new age for the audiovisual industry in Jordan and resulting in a marked increase in foreign and local films produced in the country.

In 2007, Amin Matalqa’s ‘Captain Abu Raed’ broke a 50-year dry spell, marking the first Jordanian independent film since Wassef Al Sheikh’s 1957 production ‘Struggle in Jerash’. Since then, Jordanian filmmakers have produced a diverse filmography of features, from Deema Amr’s romance ‘A 7 Hour Difference’, to Annemarie Jacir’s historical drama ‘When I Saw You’. The BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nomination of Naji Abu Nowar’s critically acclaimed 2014 film ‘Theeb’ has been heralded as Jordanian filmmaking’s true arrival on the international stage.

The Business of Show Business

Films have long been celebrated for their ability to bridge societies and raise cultural awareness. In Jordan, the film industry has succeeded in promoting Jordan as a destination for business and leisure, helping to support the local tourism sector by attracting visitors from around the world.

Over the past decade, average expenditures for film and television projects in Jordan exceeded USD 19.6 million per year, providing a significant injection of direct and indirect revenues to the country. In addition to empowering the workforce and equipping them with new skills, the film industry has proven to be a competitive employer, providing comparatively high salaries to an average of 8,000 film crewmembers annually. In 2008, the world-renowned SAE Institute opened its first campus in the country, providing movie buffs with the opportunity to pursue formal certifications in animation, audio and filmmaking.

Making Movies in Jordan

In 2004, the RFC was granted the right to exempt eligible productions from certain taxes and fees, such as the sales tax on any products and services purchased in Jordan for production, and customs duties on any equipment and materials imported for the sole purpose of the production. These exemptions have contributed to Jordan’s growing reputation as an excellent country for filmmakers to create their feature films.

In April 2017, as a result of its efforts to provide the necessary support and comprehensive production services for foreign, Arab and local productions, the RFC was honored with the ‘Outstanding Film Commission’ Award at the Fourth Annual Location Managers Guild International Awards, which took place at  Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, California.

Establishing a Culture of Film

At pace with the nation’s burgeoning film industry, appreciation and passion for the art of cinema itself have flourished among the people of Jordan. Increased demand has bolstered commercial activity and allowed for the expansion of commercial multiplexes and independent theaters alike.

In 2016, the European Film Festival marked its 28th iteration, making it the longest-running foreign film festival in Jordan, and in 2010, the independent collective, Ma3mal 612 Think Factory, launched the first Karama Human Rights Film Festival, which has since grown to become an international platform for human-rights focused films, drawing thousands of viewers from around the world.