Middle Eastern distributor Front Row Filmed Entertainment is preparing to release the iconic Oscar-nominated Rio de Janeiro gang drama God's city across the Gulf countries, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the first time.

Co-directed by Brazilian directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, the film was successful in 2002 for its realistic depiction of the rise of gang violence in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro with a young and unprofessional cast.

Dubai-based Front Row originally released the film straight to DVD in the Gulf due to a variety of local restrictions, but some two decades later is moving forward with a theatrical release in a sign of how the region is opening up. .

Front Row's planned Feb. 22 release coincides with the 21st anniversary of the film's theatrical release in 2003, following its out-of-competition world premiere at Cannes in 2002, and also ties in with a global re-release on Feb. 23.

The initiative also coincides with Front Row's 20th anniversary.

“The film holds a special place in our hearts; it was our first acquisition and at the time we couldn't release it in theaters due to language restrictions imposed by theaters and also because we didn't have the money for the budget it needed to stand out, so it went straight to DVD”, says CEO from the front row, Gianluca Chakra.

“We have come a long way since then and God's city remains an unforgettable masterpiece that deserves to be seen on the silver screen. What better way to celebrate our 20th anniversary?”

Front Row is co-distributing God's city with The Festival Agency, led by Leslie Vuchot, who acquired the rights to Wild Bunch.

The partnership is part of Front Row's effort to release a series of classics in the Gulf region that weren't featured on the big screen the first time around.

Their other recent re-releases include old boy, Away from spirit It is Howl's Moving Castle.

The company relaunched Luc Besson's Lion and is planning to bring the French director's cult film The fifth Element will return to the region's big screens soon.

Chakra says the team is committed to re-releasing classics and cult films, especially in Saudi Arabia, which is experiencing a cinema renaissance following the lifting of the 35-year ban on movie theaters at the end of 2017.

God's city was nominated in four categories at the 76th Academy Awards, but went home empty-handed. However, it regularly appears on critics' lists as one of the best films of all time and is ranked 25th on IMDB with an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.