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Jordan: not just a pretty film set

Spielberg saw its potential early: Now a new Hollywood generation is turning up in Amman.

Still, Jordan is a long way from creating a large film industry. In the region, Egypt and Lebanon are known as the media powerhouses. However, Jordan has quietly been making progress. Most notably, the Jordanian film "Captain Abu Raed" has gained international acclaim, winning a number of awards at film festivals around the world and putting Jordan on the map for many viewers.

While only a handful of foreign films shoot in Jordan every year, the industry has grown enough so that people like Diala Raie have felt comfortable quitting their day jobs to work full time on freelance film jobs. Just five years ago, Raie says it would have been impossible for her to make such a career change.

“At first, I was concerned about whether projects were coming to Jordan or not,” she says. “But now, I don’t have that much doubt,” she says, adding that she still suffers from the perennial freelancer concerns about unstable work. She also takes on odd jobs now and again to help cover her basic expenses in between productions.

As Jordanian officials continue to roll out the red carpet for film makers, it’s likely that people such as Raie may not have to worry so much anymore.

This summer, "Fair Game," the story of former CIA agent Valerie Plame who was outed by the Bush administration, was one of the biggest films shot in Jordan.

Anadil Hossain, a producer for "Fair Game" who worked on films in 12 different countries this year alone, now describes herself as a Jordan “convert.” While filming overseas often presents a number of bureaucratic issues and requires greasing a number of palms, she says this was never an issue in Jordan.

“We did all kinds of crazy stuff that most other Arab nations wouldn’t even let you do,” Hossain said.

Among other things, the Jordanian government allowed them to have a Black Hawk helicopter flying low over a residential area in the middle of the day and turn sections of the road leading to the Dead Sea into an Iranian checkpoint, complete with pictures of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. “Politically they don’t object to you doing things like that because they value that it’s art and in the pursuit of art it’s make believe,” Hossain said