Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel stars in BBC-Netflix series Collateral

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Ahd Kamel during filming. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Ahd Kamel. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Ahd Kamel during filming. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Ahd Kamel during filming. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Saudi filmmaker Ahd Kamel stars in BBC-Netflix series Collateral

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian filmmaker Ahd Kamel is most recognized for the movies she directed and was honored for in film festivals in the Arab world, such as “Al-Gondorji” and “Hurma.” Kamel is also an actress and writer. She excelled in her role as school principal in the movie “Wadjda,” which had international success and made it to the Oscars.
Kamel’s ambitions in filmmaking and acting know no limits. Once again, she broke out of the local context to take part in Collateral, an English series produced by Netflix, airing currently on BBC2.
In a report published in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Kamel expressed her joy at being the first Saudi actress to take part in an English series starring the Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan. She also expressed her wishes to have cinemas in Saudi Arabia as “there are many talents in the Kingdom.”
When asked about her experience around the brightest British stars and the difference between acting in the Arab world and in Britain, Kamel said: “The difference is huge. The great thing about working in London is that they really love actors in this country; there is a lot of respect for the craft.”
Despite the fright of her first experience, Kamel admitted that TV series “are so much fun.” She said: “Living the character’s life details and being around these artists … That is such a huge thing for any actress.”
Kamel said she felt excited and nervous when she first met Collateral’s screenwriter David Hare. “When I first entered the room to meet David, I saw two seats with the name tags ‘Carey Mulligan’ and ‘Billy Piper.’ I felt so proud, as though my 10-year career was rewarding me. I will do my best and go all the way. It is such an amazing thing to work with someone like Carey. She is such a humble person.”
About her role in Collateral as Fatima, a Syrian refugee, Kamel said: “What makes the series so special is that when I auditioned for the role, I met with David Hare and S. J. Clarkson. The two artists insisted that I put a natural act and portray Fatima’s human side. This decision allowed me to study the character deeply. Hare and Clarkson helped me a lot and gave me a lot of advice.”
Kamel studied acting and directing in the US and her dream is to appear in a UK theater.
About the character she plays, and Arab characters in general, Kamel said: “It is funny how Arab characters are always portrayed as terrorists or refugees … I think this stereotype is now broken and we can now find a diversity of other characters. People are more interested in the characters’ human side. In the role I am playing, I am trying to be part of that change.”


Called to the barre: Saudi ballet gets its groove on

Ballet’s popularity is growing among different age groups. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 17 min 40 sec ago
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Called to the barre: Saudi ballet gets its groove on

  • Widad Al-Kibsi, a Saudi ballet instructor at the studio, said that people in Jeddah were now familiar with ballet
  • A 13-year-old student at the studio, Oroub Al-Shareef, said that she began ballet when she was 4 years old

JEDDAH: Ballet, one of the world’s most demanding art forms, is enjoying soaring popularity in Saudi Arabia as a new generation discovers its physical, mental and social benefits, and a Jeddah-based studio is at the forefront of the dance’s development in the Kingdom.
Sera McKnass, founder of iBallerina, said that the studio is shaping future ballerinas to be effective members of society.
“The goal is not only to pass on the art of ballet but also to raise up participants into healthy, classy and confident, caring individuals,” the 30-year-old Turkish-Lebanese master teacher said.
Ballet’s popularity is growing among different age groups.
“Mothers sign up their daughters to be trained as ballerinas, but now young adults have dreams of learning how to pirouette, chasse and jete,” McKnass told Arab News. “They come to iBallerina to start the journey and transform their souls and bodies, becoming stronger and more graceful women.”
Widad Al-Kibsi, a Saudi ballet instructor at the studio, said that people in Jeddah were now familiar with ballet. “It's now in most of the main gyms, and private or international schools in the city.”
The 20-year-old advises aspiring ballerinas to start at a young age. “It’s important to start early because improved strength and flexibility are easily acquired at a younger age.”
Ballet offers myriad physical benefits, she said. “It improves muscle tone and definition, elongates arms, and aligns the posture properly.”
Al-Kibsi said that while many Saudis saw ballet as an activity for children, “not a lot of them are aware that adults can also perform. They assume that you should be thin or flexible from the get-go. They don’t understand that with dedication and discipline, ballet strengthens and increases flexibility.”
Dana Garii, a 23-year-old Saudi writer, has been practicing ballet at the studio since February.
“I’ve been wanting to do it since I was young, but I couldn’t find the opportunity. When I found they have classes here, I just went for it. People asked me, ‘aren’t you too old?’ But that’s a myth. People think you can’t do ballet after a certain age, but you can start any time,” she told Arab News.
“Ballet is important to me. It’s more than just the physical aspects — it has taught me how to be modest, and that nothing hard ever comes easy.
“It has also taught me patience and how to take on difficult situations because it’s not only difficult physically but also psychologically. It has taught me how to overcome my fears,” Garii said.
A 13-year-old student at the studio, Oroub Al-Shareef, said that she began ballet when she was 4 years old.
“There was a TV show for kids about the mouse that did ballet (‘Angelina Ballerina’) and it inspired me. I’ve always wanted to be a ballerina,” she said.
“Ballet is very important to me. Dance is one of the ways I express myself and I feel at one with myself when I’m practicing.
“It’s a very hard thing to do, but it brings me so much joy.”
Saudi graphic designer Sara Al-Sabaan, 22, has also been practicing ballet since she was a young child.
“I started dancing in a ballet school in Guadalajara, in Mexico. Then I continued at the Kinetico dance school in Riyadh,” she said.
Al-Sabaan’s mother inspired her to take up the art form. “I’m following in her footsteps. She was a ballet dancer herself.”
The young dancer has watched ballet’s growth in popularity. “Dance classes were available when I was a child, but they have been most popular in the past decade.”
Practicing ballet is a form of self-expression, she said.
“I have danced modern, contemporary and classical ballet, and it affects me immensely. Not only is it a great physical activity, it’s also an outlet for self-expression through movement.”