LONDON: The latest film from Saudi Director Mahmoud Sabbagh “Amra and the Second Marriage” premiered at the BFI London Film Festival 2018 on Saturday.
The film was shown at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square on Saturday, and will also be screened at the Curzon cinema in Soho on Sunday.
Tickets for the dark comedy sold out soon after they went on sale, and the film proved to be as popular as its predecessor, Sabbagh’s debut feature “Barakah Meets Barakah.”
“Amra and the Second Marriage” tells the story of how a middle-aged housewife handles her husband’s decision to marry a second, younger wife.
The film, which stars Saudi actors Mohammad Alhamdan, Alshaima’a Tayeb, and Khairia Nazmi, was shot entirely in the Kingdom.
During a question and answer session with Sabbagh, he was asked whether the film would be screened in Saudi Arabia.
“This film was approved by a govermental body, so I’m hoping now with the building of the cinemas, it will be shown,” he said.
In an interview with Arab News in September, Sabbagh 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.”
Tayeb, the lead actor who plays Amra, told Arab news at the premier the “success of the film is amazing."
"I had a feeling that this would be a beautiful script, there was amazing attention to details, the cast, and everything. For me it was like going into a museum, experiencing another Saudi lifestyle in a deserted area."
She praised the director for knowing she would “fit the role well”. The film is the first Tayeb has acted in. She has previously worked in advertising as one of the few women in the field in Saudi Arabia, in the fashion business, and is currently studying herbalism. Asked whether she would consider acting in the future, she said she would be interested in “inspiring, female rising films."
The scene that Tayeb said she enjoyed the most was when she places a scarf around her daughter’s head to take her to a religious lesson. She said that she felt that this was a universal moment. It reminded her of mothers who are convinced of something and force their daughters to do what they are so sure about, “there is an almost fanatic emotion behind it,” she said.
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.
Sabbagh returned to Jeddah after completing his master’s degree, and released his highly celebrated 2016 film “Barakah Meets Barakah”.
The romantic comedy played 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.
As for what is next, Sabbagh told Arab News in an earlier interview that he is 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.”