Filmmaker helps bring heroic true story of Saudi royal to silver screen

In 1919, King Faisal represented his father in an official visit to Britain at the age of 13. Filmmaker Todd Albert Nims, right. (Photo/Supplied, AN photo Huda Bashatah)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Filmmaker helps bring heroic true story of Saudi royal to silver screen

  • Arab News catches up with co-producer Todd Albert Nims during Winter Enrichment Program at KAUST

JEDDAH: There are film stars and there are real-life heroes. Combine the two on the silver screen and a blockbuster is in the making.

“Born a King” is the remarkable true story of a 13-year-old Saudi prince dispatched to Britain on a high-stakes diplomatic mission to secure the formation of his country.

Teenager Faisal, who was later to become king of Saudi Arabia, is the young hero sent by his father to lead negotiations in London with the fate of his nation resting on his shoulders. 

Set in 1919, this extraordinary new movie was partly shot in Riyadh, and was co-produced by Saudi-born American filmmaker Todd Albert Nims.

Arab News caught up with Nims during the Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and spoke to him about his role in the production.

Nims said he was inspired to take part in filming the story of King Faisal the child. 

“It is an important story to be told, especially at this young age, a 13-year-old boy going on this diplomatic mission, where the fate of the country hangs in the balance. It is quite unique. 

“I felt this was not just a story that I would enjoy, but one that international audiences and Saudi Arabians would too,” he said.

The film tells how Prince Faisal (played by Abdullah Khaleel) negotiates with some of the pre-eminent figures of the age, including Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill, while forming a friendship with Princess Mary who helps guide him through the corridors of power.

“The main shooting (of the film) started in 2016 and was completed by the end of that year,” said Nims. However, additional filming was required over eight weeks in London and three weeks in Riyadh, and he said “Born a King” was now being prepared for cinema release.

Anticipation of the release has created a major stir on social media, with a one-minute trailer going viral.

Nims said that one of the greatest challenges faced by the film’s producers was finding a cast that looked like the main characters. 

“The majority of the cast playing Saudis are from Saudi Arabia,” he said. “But it took about a year to do the Saudi casting... The film includes hundreds of participants from the Kingdom.

“Trying to find an ‘Abdul Aziz’ was the most difficult because he was 6 feet 4 inches tall with huge hands, so trying to find an actor that is that tall or very tall was almost impossible. Also, finding a Saudi actor for the part, in a country where the film industry is still developing, was really difficult. 

“It was a similar problem casting the young Faisal. To act at the age of 13 is tough already and to find someone who looks the same (was difficult), because they are actual historical figures,” Nims added.

“It was a huge film to bring (together); many people from different nationalities all working together but speaking different languages such as English, Arabic and Spanish. It was a challenge.”

Nims has a production company of his own in Riyadh called Empty Quarter Entertainment and is currently working on a new horror movie in the south of the Kingdom.

He is also behind a film called Joud that tells the story of Saudi Arabia and its culture and will be screened in cinemas throughout the country.


Saudi Energy Minister calls for collective global effort to secure shipping lanes

Updated 11 min 19 sec ago
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Saudi Energy Minister calls for collective global effort to secure shipping lanes

  • Khalid Al-Falih: Saudi Arabia will do best to ensure the safety of shipping lanes
  • He expects OPEC members and other oil producers to meet soon to discuss an extension to oil supply cuts

TOKYO: Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Monday that countries need to cooperate on keeping shipping lanes open for oil and other energy supplies after last week’s tanker attacks in the Middle East to ensure stable supplies.

While he did not outline any concrete steps after the attacks that damaged two tankers on June 13, Falih said the Kingdom would do everything necessary to ensure safe passage of energy from Saudi Arabia and its allies in the region.

“We’ll protect our own infrastructure, our own territories and we are doing that despite the attempts to target some of our facilities,” Falih told reporters in Tokyo.

“But sea lanes of global trade need to be protected collectively by other powers as well. We believe that’s happening, but we need to make sure the rest of the world pays attention,” he said after a Japan-Saudi investment conference.

His comments came as Iran, which has been blamed by the US and Saudi Arabia for the attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, continued to escalate its rhetoric. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, claimed Iran was responsible for security in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, and called on US forces to leave the region, as tensions rose following last week's attacks on oil tankers

The attacks have shaken the oil market and rattled consumer countries that rely heavily on importing oil from the Arabian Gulf, much of which has to be transported through the Straits of Hormuz - the narrow shipping lane, which Iran has repeatedly threatened to disrupt.

Falih expects the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers including Russia to meet the week after the G20 summit to be held in Osaka on June 28-29, to discuss an extension of a supply output cut agreement.

OPEC and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, have a deal to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1. The pact ends this month and the group meets in coming weeks to decide their next move.

Falih said that OPEC was moving was toward a consensus on extending the agreement.

He said earlier this month that OPEC was close to agreeing to extend a pact on cutting oil supplies beyond June, although more talks were still needed with non-OPEC countries.

When asked if Russia is going to agree to continue the cuts, Falih said “absolutely.”

“We are maintaining the proper levels of supply that we have been having to bring inventory levels to where they belong. I hope that will continue in the second half with the assurances I have received from all the OPEC+ countries,” he said.

There was full commitment to put in place “a long term framework between the OPEC+ coalition to ensure that we work together” from next year, he said.

Oil demand growth has held up despite trade disputes roiling global markets, Falih said, adding he expects worldwide demand to be above 100 million barrels per day this year.

“We are not seeing a slowdown from either China, the US, India or other developed economies,” Falih said.

“The impact has been more on the sentiment side and fear, rather than actual impact,” he said.