Film review: An imaginative approach to capturing tension on screen

Haylie Niemann in 'The Wedding Singer’s Daughter.' (Photo supplied)
Updated 19 December 2018

Film review: An imaginative approach to capturing tension on screen

VENICE: Long before Saudi Arabia reopened its cinemas earlier this year, Haifaa Al-Mansour had made her first movie, “Wadjda,” which premiered at the 2012 Venice film festival.
Al-Mansour had told me then that her entire directorial exercise had been a real struggle: She had to sit inside a van and shout her instructions through a microphone. The movie suffered, but when she premiered “Mary Shelly” in 2017, the progress was for all to see.
Her latest outing is “The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,” a short film that screened at the 75th edition of the Venice film festival last week. The film is a neat work of art and features a girl who saves her mother from embarrassment during a traditional Saudi wedding.
Here, much like her first film’s young protagonist, a child (played by Haylie Neimann) becomes a hero when she gets up on a table to fix a microphone so her mother (played by Saudi singer Rotana Tarabzouni) can continue singing.
Neimann is a natural and acts with her eyes, something that is very rare these days. It is clear that Al-Mansour’s attention was totally on the little girl, which is not a bad thing, but maybe a bit more camera time for the singer could have balanced out the work a little more evenly.
Although it is understandable that priorities must be chosen in such a short film — this one runs for about eight minutes — a little more creativity in the editing room could have made the feature a more satisfying watch.
The film captures the essence of society, with Al-Mansour publicly stating that “weddings are the actual mirror of the society in Saudi Arabia: Segregated, fragmented, along gender and class.
“I wanted to tell the story of those people and capture that tenderness,” she added.
And that she does with finesse. We see how the daughter ignores the scornful barbs of guests at the wedding and uses her imagination, like an independent movie director, to fix the power problem.
In the process, with one simple act, Al-Mansour once again creates an unlikely heroine.

‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

Updated 19 April 2019

‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

  • National Museum in Riyadh hosts digital show that tells the story of Mosul, Palmyra, Aleppo and Leptis Magna

JEDDAH: An exhibition that uses digital technology to revive the region’s ancient sites and civilizations that have been destroyed or are under threat due to conflict and terrorism opened at the National Museum in Riyadh on April 18.

“Age-Old Cities” tells the story of four historically significant cities that have been devastated by violence: Mosul in Iraq, Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria, and Leptis Magna in Libya. 

Using stunning giant-screen projections, virtual reality, archival documents and images, and video testimonials from inhabitants of the affected sites, the immersive exhibition transports visitors back in time and presents the cities as they were in their prime. 

It charts their journey from the origins of their ancient civilizations to their modern-day state, and presents plans for their restoration and repair. 

The exhibition has been organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Riyadh is the first stop outside the French capital on the exhibition’s global tour. 

The exhibition follows last month’s unveiling of the Kingdom’s new cultural vision, which included the announcement of several initiatives, including a new residency scheme for international artists to practice in the Kingdom and the establishment of the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, said: “I am delighted to welcome the ‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition to Riyadh. 

“It highlights the importance of heritage preservation, particularly here in the Middle East, and the vulnerability of some of our historic sites. 

“It must be the responsibility of governments to put an end to this damage and neglect, and to put heritage at the heart of action, investment, and policy.

“I will be encouraging my fellow members of government to attend this eye-opening exhibition in our National Museum, and hope to work in the future with partners, governments and experts to do what we can to secure our region’s heritage.”

The exhibition carries a significant message about the importance of preserving and protecting these precious but fragile sites — one which resonates strongly in the week when one of the world’s most-famous heritage sites, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral, went up in flames.