Image Nation Abu Dhabi has signed Emirati director Mohammed Saeed Harib for its third local feature film - a family comedy about a disgraced football player who redeems himself as a coach for a failing team at an Abu Dhabi high school.

“It’s a family comedy which will appeal to a broad audience,” commented Mohammed Al Otaiba, head of Image Nation Abu Dhabi, a division of the Abu Dhabi Media group focusing on local productions.

Casting, which will focus on local talent, is due to start at the beginning of 2013, for a spring shoot and autumn release, he said.

Harib, 34, is the creator of the Emirati hit animation series FREEJ, about four traditional fun-loving, old women dealing with modern-day society which is broadcast on Cartoon Network Arabic.

He is also one of the only Arab filmmakers invited to direct a chapter of the upcoming Salma Hayek-produced adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, which the Doha Film Institute is co-financing.

Image Nation’s as yet untitled sports comedy is the company’s third Emirati picture after the coming-of-age picture Sea Shadow and horror movie Djinn.

Al Otaiba said Image Nation had drafted in US-Pakistani writer Sameer Gardezi, whose has written for US series such as Aliens in America and Modern Family.

“He has a track record in writing comedy on tackling society,” said Al Otaiba. “We got him over and immersed him in Emirati society, culture and local traditions and then we got Mohammed in to direct, who made a few artistic touches.”