Wadi Rum’s extraterrestrial landscape brings sci-fi movie ‘Dune’ to life

Parts of “Dune” were also shot in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, the UAE

  
Cinema. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Cinema. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Getty Images
 

AMMAN — The sci-fi film “Dune” was shown on Monday night at a private screening, organised by the Royal Film Commission (RFC), in Amman.

The story takes place on the desert planet “Arrakis”, a fictional planet out of this universe, but that mirrors a very real place on Earth: Jordan’s Wadi Rum.

The event was held under the patronage of Prince Ali, chairman of the RFC’s board of commissioners, who attended the screening along with Princess Rym, member of the board of commissioners, and in the presence of the Jordanian crew, selected guests and media representatives, according to an RFC statement sent to The Jordan Times.

“I am very proud that Jordan hosted the shoot of a world-class film such as ‘Dune’; it was the biggest production of the year, shot in a safe and film-friendly environment,” Prince Ali said in the statement.

The film, based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 bestselling novel “Dune”, tells the story of a young royal, Paul Atreides, who struggles against the other interstellar noble houses and hostile desert “sandworms” to uphold his family’s stewardship of Arrakis; the only location of the valuable mineral “Spice”.

The film features Timothee Chalamet, who stars as Paul Atreides, and Zendaya, who plays Chani, a mysterious woman of the “desert-people”, the “Fremen”.

The film also features Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa, among many other award-winning actors and actresses.

The story’s intricate plot and extraterrestrial landscape has made past film adaptations difficult.

However, Denis Villeneuve, “Dune’s” director, found the ideal locations to help both the viewers and cast experience planet Arrakis’s arid and inhabitable, but simultaneously magnificent, landscape.

In 2019, in over 23 days, Villeneuve and his team shot “Dune” in Shakrieh and Desi in Wadi Rum, as well as in Wadi Araba, according to the RFC statement.

“A wide audience from all over the world will be able to watch this film on a big screen and see how the beautiful landscapes of Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba can serve as an other-worldly cinematic experience,” said Prince Ali in the statement.

Parts of “Dune” were also shot in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, the UAE.

Mohannad Al Bakri, the managing director of the Royal Film Commission (RFC), told The Jordan Times at the event that: “This [Dune] has been a book since the 50s, it was done as a film several times, but never in an environment that looks like it is described in the novel”.

“Wadi Rum, for the filmmakers, was the perfect place,” Bakri stated.

“Jordan has a very special vibe,” Villeneuve said in a RFC video. “It’s very impressive, every 25 miles you have a total difference in the landscape,” he added.

Chalamet highlighted in the video that shooting in Wadi Rum “added a transformative quality, I think for everyone”.

Zendaya added: “The overall experience in Jordan has been incredible. Every day when I go on set I’m like wow, this is where I get to work today.”

“We’ve all been welcomed with open arms,” she said.

Over 400 Jordanian crew members helped with the production of “Dune”, according to the RFC statement.

However, Bakri added, these 400 crew members do not even begin to account for everyone involved in the film’s production.

This number reflects “just the 400 main people”, but the films’ production reached many others, such as all those in hotels and restaurants who accommodated the film crew and cast during their stay, he said.

Bakri, highlighting the benefits of a “film-friendly country”, said: “For a country with lots of productions, they [filmmakers] don’t need to bring their entire film crews with them. They only bring 50 per cent. They’re saving money and they’re spending in Jordan. Economically, it is a very important source for Jordan”.

To encourage film production in Jordan, the RFC offers logistical support and financial incentives, including tax exemptions and cash rebates, Bakri said.

“Since ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, Wadi Rum has been used as a filming destination, but it’s also increasingly becoming a tourist destination,” said Bakri, adding that after ‘the Martian’ (2015), tourism “increased significantly in Wadi Rum”.

“Dune” will be released in cinemas in Jordan as of Thursday, September 23, according to the statement.

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