Transforming Arab cinema with MAD Solutions

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division, WIPO

With a population of around 422 million people spanning 22 countries, the Arab film market is largely untapped and has huge growth potential. Alaa Karkouti is a renowned film analyst and CEO and co-founder of MAD Solutions, a one-stop shop for film promotion and distribution in the Arab region. He talks to WIPO Magazine about what the company is doing to support the development of Arab cinema at... (see full summary)


How did you get into the film business?

I have always loved the cinema. But when I started out, film was not considered a serious career option, so I studied journalism and began writing for Arab newspapers in London. Then I went to Cairo, the Hollywood of the Arab world, and got into film journalism. This gave me an in-depth understanding of the industry. At the time, the standard template for film distribution was a trailer, a poster and a film premiere. But it wasn’t working. People were not going to the cinema. It was clear there was a gap in the Arab film market and we had to develop a new approach and to start making films that Arab audiences could relate to. To do this we needed to better understand the Arab film market and Arab audiences. That was the only way we were going to develop a cinema culture in the region. That’s what prompted me to set up MAD Solutions with Maher Diab, who is now the company’s creative director.

What is MAD Solutions seeking to achieve?

We want to see the Arab film sector flourish and reach its full potential. We want to change perceptions about Arab cinema and to create the space for Arab films to be seen at home and internationally. We also want to encourage people to broaden their viewing habits and experiment with different genres of Arab films. But this is a big challenge because for many in the region, cinema remains a luxury and people are generally unwilling to explore arthouse films. But thankfully the landscape is changing. A few years ago it was rare for an Arab film to be released in the region, but last year we distributed 10 feature-length Arab films to Arab cinemas.

How does MAD Solutions stand apart from other film distributors in the region?

MAD Solutions is the first pan-Arab creative studio dedicated to the creation, promotion, marketing and distribution of quality Arab content to and from the Arab region. We bring all aspects of film marketing, promotion and distribution under one roof, and have a long-term vision for the sector’s development. This concept never existed in the Arab world before MAD Solutions. We work with all film genres – fiction, documentaries, features, shorts – but we only distribute Arab films (for now) in the Arab region. We have offices in Cairo and Abu Dhabi and work with filmmakers in most Arab countries. And sometimes we co-produce films – to secure distribution rights for the Arab region – but even here our focus is exclusively on marketing and promotion.


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