UAE-made fantasy film set to premiere in Venice

The film tells the story of a girl living in a village where female children are sacrificed. (Image Nation)
Updated 19 November 2019

UAE-made fantasy film set to premiere in Venice

DUBAI: A fantasy film made in the UAE, and helmed by a Saudi director, is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival next month.

“Sayidat Al-Bahr,” or “Scales” in English, was created by Image Nation Abu Dhabi and directed by Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen.

The film tells the story of Hayat, a young girl living in a village with a tradition of sacrificing female children to mysterious sea-dwelling creatures. When her time comes, she decides to break with tradition and forge her own path.

Ameen — known for her short film “Eye & Mermaid,” which premiered at the Dubai Film Festival in 2013 — said that the film is an artistic comment on patriarchal societies.

“’Scales’ tells a visceral story about growing up as a woman in a patriarchal society, offering an allegorical take on a universal theme that will resonate with audiences around the world,” Ameen said in a released statement.

Shot in Oman, the Arab arthouse film is set to premiere as part of the Venice Critics’ Week competition.

In a statement, Ben Ross, chief content officer at Image Nation said, “This nuanced, artistic project embraces film’s power to address important subjects like freedom and belonging.

“’Scales’ is part of Image Nation’s efforts to expand our slate to encompass more intriguing, specialty films alongside our more commercial projects. We foresee that ‘Scales’ will be well-received on the festival circuit. This is a film that brings profound insights into contemporary culture.”

“Scales” stars Basima Hajjar as Hayat, as well as Ashraf Barhom and Fatima Al-Taei. The film was executive produced by Mohamed Al-Daradji and Majid Ansari.

Image Nation called the news a “great milestone” for Arab cinema.

“Great milestone for Arab cinema: Our latest narrative feature ‘Scales’ by Saudi director Shahad Ameen will have its world premiere at the Venice Critics’ Week competition next month — making it the first for our narrative films to premiere in Venice,” Image Nation said in a tweet.

The Venice Film Festival is one of the world’s leading film festivals, having made its debut in 1932. The festival is widely seen as a testing ground for Oscar-contenders, with the final lineup — set to be revealed later this week — including premieres from prestigious filmmakers.

‘A Fall from Grace’ is a dark thriller with a fresh take

A still from ‘A Fall from Grace.’ Supplied
Updated 26 January 2020

‘A Fall from Grace’ is a dark thriller with a fresh take

  • Penned, produced and helmed by Tyler Perry, “A Fall From Grace" is now streaming on Netflix
  • The film tackles a rarely discussed subject — that of elderly abuse.

CHENNAI: Tyler Perry’s dark thriller “A Fall From Grace” — in which he also acts — reminded me not of Hitchcock or Agatha Christie or even Arthur Conan Doyle, but of Erle Stanley Gardner and his brilliant courtroom drama, with Perry Mason playing both lawyer and sleuth. 

Penned, produced and helmed by Perry, “A Fall From Grace,” now streaming on Netflix, is set in suburban Virginia and was shot in just five days. Middle-aged divorcee Grace (Crystal Fox) has murdered her young husband. She has even confessed to it, and it looks like an open-and-shut case. Public prosecutor Jasmine (Bresha Webb), a novice in the field, is asked by her boss (Perry) to get a plea deal from Grace. 

But when the two women meet — a much older Grace and much younger Jasmine — something does not seem right to the prosecutor, and much against the wishes of her boss and the accused, she goes about making her own investigations. 

There is a strong element of Christian faith running through the movie, and we see Jasmine tracking down Grace’s best friend Sarah (Phylicia Rashad), who also feels that there is something amiss. A series of flashbacks narrates Grace’s unfortunate story.

Disillusioned over her former husband’s affair, Grace flips for a handsome young photographer Shanon, who woos her with flowers and dinner dates. Sarah encourages her friend, and much like a Gardner plot, “A Fall from Grace” is peppered with hints and clues. Catch them if you can. But what finally turns out is a horror story of torture and turmoil.

Interestingly, the film tackles a rarely discussed subject — that of elderly abuse. It is said that 5 million older men and women are ill-treated every year in America, and “A Fall from Grace” has some disturbing revelations to show us. They are sheer horror, and the last word in human cruelty. 

The movie has its weak moments — some characters’ motivations are never fully explained, for example. But on the whole, it is a disturbing tale that will keep you hooked.