Saudi director’s latest film to debut in London

Mahmoud Sabbagh
Updated 21 September 2018

Saudi director’s latest film to debut in London

  • In all my work, I take a humorous stab at the contradictory, unequal setups of our society

JEDDAH: Tickets for “Amra and the Second Marriage,” Saudi Director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest feature film, will go on sale in London on Sept. 13.
The film is scheduled to debut on Oct. 13 at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square, and the following day at the Curzon cinema in Soho.
“Amra and the Second Marriage” tells the story of how a middle-aged housewife handles her husband’s decision to pursue a second wife.
“It’s a dark comedy about an average housewife who discovers that her retiring husband is planning to marry a younger second wife,” Sabbagh told Arab News.
“In her attempts to comprehend this new reality, her life begins to unravel as she’s pushed toward a hefty compromise,” he said.
“Unlike my debut feature ‘Barakah Meets Barakah,’ which voiced millennials’ concerns about cosmopolitan Jeddah, this one touches on a heartland mainstream milieu. There’s a hyper-real element to it that serves not to estrange.” Both films were shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.
Born in Jeddah in 1983, Sabbagh grew up heavily influenced by Egyptian films from the 1980s.
In 2011, he attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied documentary filmmaking and production.
After earning his master’s degree, Sabbagh returned to Jeddah, where he released the highly acclaimed 2016 film “Barakah Meets Barakah.”
Shot entirely in Jeddah, the film is a comedic love story that plays on strict Saudi social conventions in a dramatically candid way.
It premiered at the 66th annual Berlin International Film Festival — the first Saudi feature film to do so — and was later selected as the Saudi entry for best foreign-language film at the 89th Academy Awards.
The following year, Sabbagh was appointed to the jury for the best first feature award at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.
“In all my work, I take a humorous stab at the contradictory, unequal setups of our society. There’s a cinematic moral responsibility to every filmmaker,” he said.
“My quest has been to modernize intersubjective realities and distort those unequal power dynamics so change can occur from within. This happens by being able to tell more and more local stories,” he said.
“These stories get their universal appeal because emotional conflicts are universal. You can’t deny that.”
Regarding his inspiration to pursue a career in filmmaking, Sabbagh credits his fellow Saudis.
“The everyday life of a Saudi inspires me. We have rich stories and fascinating milieus. In my latest film, I strived to give its dark comedy a Coen Brothers tone,” he said.
Along with directing and screenwriting, Sabbagh also produces films, and in 2015 he founded Elhoush Productions, the first independent feature film production company based in Jeddah.
Prior to filmmaking he worked as a journalist, which he attributes with shaping his perceptions on sensitive social taboos.
As for what is next, “I’d like to progress my style more. I have bigger desires for more cinematic fulfilment,” Sabbagh said.
“I’m interested as a director in the idea of being able to go further, to do something that hasn’t been done before, to work harder with everyone else to bring the filmmaking experience to a more pleasant and accessible standard.”

What We Are Reading Today: Churchill: Walking with destiny by Andrew Roberts

Updated 20 November 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Churchill: Walking with destiny by Andrew Roberts

  • The story Roberts tells is sophisticated and in the end more satisfying
  • The book being deals with all the controversies in his career that you would expect

Winston Churchill was born on Nov. 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough. 

Historian Andrew Roberts’ insight about Winston Churchill’s relation to fate in “Churchill: Walking With Destiny” comes directly from the subject himself. 

“I felt as if I were walking with destiny,” Churchill wrote of that moment in May 1940 when he achieved the highest office. 

But the story Roberts tells is more sophisticated and in the end more satisfying. 

The book covers Churchill’s post-war warnings about the Soviet threat and his second premiership in the early-to-mid 1950s, including his complex relationship with Anthony Eden, his successor-in-waiting. 

Roberts, who was born in 1963, took a first class honors degree in Modern History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, from where he is an honorary senior scholar and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). He has written or edited 12 books, and appears regularly on radio and television around the world.

“The book being deals with all the controversies in his career that you would expect. However nothing can detract from the ultimate conclusion that Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was a very great man without whom humane civilization would not have been saved during those stern days of the Second World War,” stated a review published in