Upcoming filmmakers, actors determined to build a Saudi film industry

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Yasser Hammad on set of one of his short films (images courtesy of Yasser Hammad)
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Nahar Alhamrani (center) on the set of his YouTube hit show ‘N8n8a.’ (images courtesy of Nahar Alhamrani)
Updated 13 December 2017
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Upcoming filmmakers, actors determined to build a Saudi film industry

JEDDAH: Since the news about the reopening of cinemas in Saudi Arabia broke on Monday, directors, producers and actors are rejoicing and cannot contain their excitement on the new chapter the Kingdom is going through. It is no secret that there is a small, up-and-coming film industry in the Kingdom. It just has not seen the light of day on the domestic front.
Many participate on an international level, but now things are turning around and many are hopeful and enthusiastic about what is coming up next.
Sara Taibah, a young Saudi actress who played Zaina in Nada Mojadidi’s “Zaina’s Cake,” which recently won the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) best short film award at Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF), was excited with Monday’s news.
“This is our time now. The announcement is going to open doors for all potential actors and actresses that want to get into this field.”
“There’s a passion to it and I have had the privilege to experience it. Now others can too. Acting is another level of talent and there are so many talented Saudis here that want to show it,” she said.
As an actress, she said she would like directors and producers to make movies that are less intense and more toned down in the messages they convey.
“I hope that there’ll be more real social stories,” she said. “We all know of the major issues we have in the Kingdom, and I am not undermining them, but what about the real issues? How about going into people’s homes and telling the stories of us, to us, for us? That would be refreshing.”
Yasser Hammad, a writer and director and soon-to-be a graduate of the prestigious NY Film Academy in Los Angeles, said his dream is finally coming true.
“I’ve been wanting this since I was a child. People would always discourage me and tell me to keep dreaming. Well, the dream has finally come true.
“With the introduction of cinemas, an industry will surely happen. I’ve worked so hard to achieve my dream and my goal is to come back and throw myself into the game as soon as I can and be a part of the movement. I want people to view our films on the big screen and see how much we can give and appreciate the message we’re relaying on screen. Nothing is impossible now.”
He said with the growth of the industry, Saudi filmmakers would surely learn from the experiences of their neighbors like from their Egyptian counterparts.
He understands that it is going to be new and is still in its initial phases but the information is out there to organize and generate a system to make it easy for film casters, creative producers, cinematographers, etc. to do their job in the most efficient manner.
Nahar Alhamrani, creative director of “The Crew KSA Productions” and a major movie enthusiast, felt the news was a great milestone for the budding industry.
He told Arab News: “We don’t have the know-how of creating a full-fledged film but we’re learning along the way. It’s an experience for everyone taking part.
“Yesterday’s announcement was the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. I booked a ticket to Dubai this morning just to watch ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi,’ that’s how dedicated I am... You could imagine how it’d be if we had cinemas in the Kingdom. People would flock to them and finally enjoy the experience.”
As a movie enthusiast, Alhamrani feels that cinemas bring people together, sharing one experience together, reacting to the same movie scene together. “You laugh, you cry and you show fear all together as a collective. That is an experience you can never have at home. The naysayers can complain all they want but they can never deny that they too watch movies on their TV screens, so why not give it a try on the big screen?”
It is also a fact that many, like Alhamrani, are giving it all they have got to produce the highest quality of work they can. As mentioned, they are still learning along the way, but it is something to look forward to in the future.


Saudi MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

Updated 18 June 2018
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Saudi MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

  • The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia
  • The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease

GENEVA: Outbreaks of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) killed 23 people in Saudi Arabia between Jan. 21 and May 31 this year, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
The deaths were among 75 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) during the period, the WHO said, and take the total number of deaths from the disease to 790 since it was first diagnosed in humans in 2012.
The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia.
One outbreak in February hit a private hospital in Hafer Albatin region, where the patient passed the disease to three health workers. There was another cluster of six cases in a hospital in Riyadh in the same month, although no health care workers were infected.
Two other clusters affected households in Jeddah and Najran.
MERS-CoV is a member of a virus family ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It appears to have emerged in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012, although it has been traced in camels, the source of the infection, back to at least 1983.
The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease.
But it kills one in three sufferers, and hospital workers are at risk unless extreme caution is taken to identify MERS sufferers early and to protect health care workers from infection via airborne droplets such as from coughs and sneezes.
Susceptible people should avoid contact with suspected cases and with camels, and anyone who has contact with animals should wash their hands before and afterwards, the WHO said. Everyone should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating undercooked meat.
Three MERS cases have been reported this year outside Saudi Arabia. Oman and the United Arab Emirates each reported a case, while in Malaysia a man fell ill after drinking unpasteurised camel milk during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.