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

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.

Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

Masjid Quba in Madinah is a favorite destination for Hajj pilgrims, according to tour guides. Below: The Cave of Hira, Al-Baqi’ cemetery and the Prophet’s Chamber allow visitors to step back in time. (Getty Images)
Updated 15 August 2018

Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

  • A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities
  • Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies

RIYADH: Hajj is one of the biggest dreams of every Muslim’s life, and pilgrims looking forward to their stay in Makkah and Madinah say a bucket list is the best way to plan the trip. 

Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies. Standing in the places of the Holy Prophet transports them back to the past as if they lived those incredible moments. 

A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities.

Sayed Shafei, an operation manager for City Sightseeing, a tour company in Madinah and worldwide, told Arab News: “We offer a special tour with a multilingual tour guide presented in eight languages. We also offer 24-hour tickets. We have scheduled tourism trips starting from the Prophet’s Mosque to 12 destinations every 30 minutes. The whole trip lasts for 14 hours a day.” 

Asked about the most popular requests, Shafei said: “Our customers always ask to visit Masjid Quba, the Sayed Al-Shuhada Mosque in Uhud, which is considered a vital historic landmark of Madinah, and Al-Qiblatain Mosque.” 

Most of the group’s customers are from East Asia, but many also visit from Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, the US and Europe.

Munirah Al-Jebreen, an English instructor at Princess Noura University who will perform Hajj this year, told Arab News her bucket list began with an online search. 

“I found a travel guide on Google that has all the best sites in Madinah and Makkah, so I decided to visit Uthman ibn Affan’s Farm and Well in Madinah, the Holy Qur’an exhibition, and one of the most important places I want to visit is the grave of the Holy Prophet,” she said.

The area between the Prophet’s Chamber, which holds his grave, and the Mimbar is known as the Rawdah, which is actually the Garden of Paradise. It is presently distinguished by a green carpet.

Al-Jebreen also listed some of her planned tour destinations in Makkah, including the Cave of Hira, where the Holy Prophet meditated frequently during the first 40 years of his life and the site of the first revelation. 

She will also visit Bilal Mosque and Mount Abu Qubais and, finally, will try Al-Garmushi, one of the famous traditional restaurants in Makkah.