Jordan Signs Cinema Pact With USC

Monarch agrees to create Middle East institute in Aqaba, where qualified candidates can learn about film technique and other cultures.
Dean Elizabeth M. Daley and King Abdullah II attend ceremony in New York.

King Abdullah II of Jordan presided over a ceremony in New York City marking the creation of the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) in Jordan’s Red Sea resort town of Aqaba.

The institute is a joint effort of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The institute will enroll men and women from the Middle East region in a specialized learning environment dedicated to teaching all disciplines of the cinematic arts.

The official ceremony took place at the Jumeirah Essex House in New York City. Participants in the event included Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts; Frank Price, chair of the school’s Board of Councilors and USC trustee; Samer Mouasher, member of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan; filmmaker Dan Katzir; and producer Malek Akkad.

The Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts is in line with His Majesty’s efforts to harness the skills of Jordanian youth by exposing them to the latest technologies in filmmaking and production. The institute also would contribute to the monarch’s vision of establishing a hub for intellectual and creative capital in Jordan, where youth in the region can be equipped with the necessary tools for success.

His Majesty drew on the expertise of filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who recommended the partnership with USC, to make this project a reality.

“When His Majesty approached me on the subject of a Jordan-based, world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel, I immediately saw the importance and significance of such a venture for the people and the future of the region. I knew as a trustee of USC and a member of the school’s Board of Councilors that the university had the exact expertise he needed for this incredible initiative,” Spielberg said.

Said Mouasher, “The Middle East is a melting pot of cultural richness and diversity with storytelling traditions as old as time, yet contemporary cinematic stories from the region are in short supply. In establishing this institute, we will draw from a diverse and vast pool of cultures and experiences to offer a more complete idea and multifaceted perspective to the viewer and the world audience.”

USC faculty and staff teams traveled to Jordan to conduct pilot programs in 2005 and 2006. Those experiences now will be formally expanded into the RSICA, a fully accredited and free-standing graduate school that will offer a three-year Master’s of Fine Arts degree through advanced education in cinema, television and a wide range of screen-based media.

Construction of the RSICA campus is set to begin in early 2007 in Aqaba, a special economic zone in Jordan on the Red Sea bordering Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Its facilities will include digital screening rooms, postproduction, animation and interactive media laboratories; sound stages with green-screen and motion-capture capacities; high-end professional video production packages and an extensive digital and print library.

Faculty will be drawn from industry, arts and academic institutions around the world. Students will be admitted from Jordan and the entire region, with first admissions in September 2008, and the first graduating class in June 2011.

Admission will be based on a competitive portfolio, clear evidence of talent and outstanding personal expression as well as strong potential for creative collaboration.