Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live

Inspire Middle East


How is Disney’s remake of Aladdin good news for the Middle East?

Inspire middle east

The film, which premiered worldwide in cinemas in May, was partly filmed in the kingdom’s Wadi Rum desert.

The location has previously served as a backdrop for films like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), The Martian (2015), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) and the all-time classic, Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Aladdin, which was made in conjunction with Jordan’s Royal Film Commission, created 150 local jobs and took more than $150 million dollars in its first eight days at the North American box office.

As of Friday, June 7th the 2019 US remake had made $214.9 million domestically and $508 million worldwide, according to Forbes.

The hope of Jordan’s Film Commission is that the movie continues to work its magic and encourage other filmmakers to produce their next project in the region.

Ahead of the film’s release, the cast made a public appearance in the Jordanian capital Amman to discuss the movie’s making.


Guy Ritchie during interview with Euronews (left); and on Aladdin’s film set in Jordan (right)

Whilst the new Aladdin release could be considered something of a departure from Guy Ritchie’s trademark neo-noir productions like Sherlock Holmes (2009), and gangster movies like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), the movie bears its fair share of grit and fast-paced chases.

For the parts filmed in Wadi Rum, the British director said the landscaped matched the cinematic aesthetic he had in mind.

“It’s funny, because it (Wadi Rum) is almost built into the psyche of most film directors,” he told Euronews.

Contributing to Jordan’s developing film industry story was a humbling experience for Ritchie, especially when charged with remaking the much-loved animated Aladdin film of 1992.

According to the director, his key objective was to retain the film’s original essence whilst adding a contemporary touch, to please today’s young audience.

“I suppose the biggest challenge was making sure that you fused the old and the new,” he said, “That you didn’t disturb the nostalgia of the first film, yet embellished it with applicable character evolution.”


Mena Massoud playing the role of Aladdin (left); and during interview with Euronews (right)

The film’s protagonist Aladdin is played by Egyptian-born actor Mena Massoud, a relative newcomer to the Hollywood scene.

For Massoud, the cultural diversity showcased in Aladdin sets a high bar for other international productions.

“It sends the message that you can still cast people of colour, and people from this region and other regions, to carry films and have them succeed,” he told Euronews.

The 27-year-old added that film productions should move away from stereotyping Arab actors.

“I think there’s definitely a shift,” he said. “You know, when I first started my career, my first on-camera job was on a role called Nikita, as ‘Al Qaeda member 2’. So that shows how far we’ve come.”

“I think there’s no better time than now,” he added.


Naomi Scott during interview with Euronews (left); and playing the role of princess Jasmine (right)

Indian-British actress Naomi Scott plays Princess Jasmine, a character who is not the average royal on the rise. With plenty of sass, intelligence and determination, Jasmine is driven to rule her father’s kingdom.

Her signature song in the film, ‘Speechless’, is a defiant declaration of independence which was composed by 8-times Oscar winner Alan Menken. Unusually, for a musical movie of this kind, the final version of the song to make the cut was recorded in one live take.

Portraying a strong female character to a worldwide audience was a career highlight for Scott.

“This character made me feel empowered growing up, but I do think there was room to modernise her so that it made sense for a 2019 audience,” she said. “I think it’s really important that our female heroines have a narrative – that they can push forward and they are well rounded – imperfect, of course, but they go through a journey.”

Scott valued being part of the film’s varied ethnic line-up of on-screen talent, which included actors of Tunisian and Persian descent.

“I’m so proud of how diverse our cast was, and how so many people can see this movie and connect, or relate in some way, and see themselves,” she said.

View more