Morris’s thirteenth film, “Abu Dhabi” explores the psycho-geographical urban landscape of Abu Dhabi, its rapid growth, financial prosperity, history, spectacle and illusion while capturing the city’s itinerant work force, architecture and its potential transition away from oil as the main economic resource. The film was shot during the National Day celebrations, a day that marks the formal independence of the U.A.E. from the United Kingdom in 1972 and the formation of a united federation of seven Emirates.
In “Abu Dhabi”, Morris traces the structure and the undercurrents of the city and the interconnecting elements. Morris’ hallmark of democratically capturing scenes is also employed with situation as varied as: The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, an interview with the former translator of the late Sheikh Zayed, Dr. Zaki Nusseihbeh, The Sheikh Zayed Bridge designed by Zaha Hadid, the Um Al Naar Refinery, the Liwa desert, the Norman Foster designed Masdar Institute, archival footage sourced from the early days of urban development in the 1970’s, and the staged National Day ceremonies at Henri Colboc’s Zayed City Sports Stadium.
The film was commissioned by the Guggenheim on the occasion of the anticipation of the construction of the new Frank Gehry designed museum in the cultural district of Saadiyat Island, a site of high-octane architecture and planned urban development that feels Ballardian in its contradictions. Shot at numerous locations throughout the city, the film explores Abu Dhabi’s endeavor to straddle tribal tradition with modernity as it shifts away from its history as a modern petro-state to a more sustainable and diverse economy in the 21st century. “Abu Dhabi” catalogues a dramatic trajectory of tremendous growth and documents the challenges the city is now poised to grapple with as the next 40 years unfold.