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.


Finance officials meet to map out Saudi Arabia’s budget plans

Updated 19 April 2019
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Finance officials meet to map out Saudi Arabia’s budget plans

  • Finance representatives of 150 government bodies meet for the Budget Forum 2020

RIYADH: Saudi finance chiefs have kicked off a major conference in the capital aimed at mapping out the Kingdom’s budget requirements.
Around 300 specialists representing 150 government bodies met at the InterContinental hotel in Riyadh for the Budget Forum 2020.
Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan welcomed delegates to the second edition of the gathering organized by the Saudi Finance Ministry under the slogan “Partnership and Empowerment.”
Al-Jadaan said the ministry was focused on “partnership and commitment,” and sought to share the challenge of developing an effective budget to achieve the Kingdom’s ambitious goals.
“We are also committed to empowering financial leaderships to learn about the ministry’s programs and projects and provide training and qualification opportunities to the best international standards,” he added.
The finance chief said the budget planning process required the collaboration of multiple authorities and a clear strategy based on transparency. 
Items up for discussion at the forum included financial planning in governmental bodies, automation, and the promotion of revenues and efficient spending.
Finance Ministry steering committee chairman, Abdul Aziz bin Saleh Al-Freih, stressed the importance of the forum in getting the ball rolling at an early stage on formulating a general state budget.
Workshops were held on the sidelines of the conference focused on empowering government organizations, and a training program on financial planning and income estimations was also staged.