‘Born A King’ film to break stereotypes about Saudi Arabia

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The film’s producer, Andre Vicente Gomez, believes the movie “Born a King” will break stereotypes about Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
Updated 03 September 2019

‘Born A King’ film to break stereotypes about Saudi Arabia

  • Spanish Saudi film portrays a young King Faisal in London
  • Film to be premiered on Sept. 26 across the Middle East 

RIYADH: On Sept. 26, “Born a King” will premiere in theaters across the Middle East and North Africa. The movie tells the story of a young King Faisal Al-Saud during his trip to the UK on a diplomatic mission aged just 13.

The film’s producer, Andre Vicente Gomez, believes the movie will break stereotypes about Saudi Arabia.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about the country. If the film will surprise the Saudis, then imagine the European or American reactions,” he told Arab News.

“We don’t know yet what the reaction will be, but I think this movie will help the opening of the Kingdom to the world because it shows a Saudi Arabia they don’t know.”

This is not Gomez’s first attempt at creating a film in the Kingdom. “My relationship with Saudi Arabia is long, I came here in 2010, looking for locations for an animated film about spirits (jins),” he said.

Things took a different turn as Saudi television and the Ministry of Culture told him that producing a film about spirits might be controversial, “because in the Quran there are some jins that are good and others that are not so good.”

That project was spiked, but his interest in Saudi Arabia’s history was only starting.

Two years later, he made a musical in Spain titled “The Last Horseman,” which was inspired by a Saudi story. 

He dove deep into Saudi history, reading up on all the books he could get his hands on. He then came across the story of King Faisal.

“I thought it would make a great movie, but not a biography of King Faisal — just the London trip. The story of a young boy coming of age, going to the city and encountering this new world.”

Gomez wrote 12 pages of the script before contacting the King Faisal Foundation. He met Prince Turki and called himself “lucky” with how quick the events took place.

Prince Turki read the script while meeting with Gomez. He liked what he read, but he told the producer that he would need the approval of the rest of the family, especially King Salman, the brother of King Faisal.

A month later, Prince Turki met Gomez in Paris and informed him that the family approved of the project and he had the green light to go ahead.

“I started writing the script and went to a Saudi novelist, Badr Al-Samary, who helped me and guided me on the first steps on the story.”

It was no easy task to ensure the accuracy of all the details, but with extensive research and the help of Prince Turki, they were able to make it as accurate as possible.

“Really, the person who has more input, more emphasis and guidance has been Prince Turki.

The film’s producer, Andre Vicente Gomez, believes the movie “Born a King” will break stereotypes about Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“He supervised everyone on the seven or eight drafts of the scripts that were first produced. He also helped me choose actors for the different parts.”

Gomez credited Russian author Alexei Vassilev’s book “The History of Saudi Arabia,” which provided useful information on the history. “He’s an expert on the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in particular.”

The movie was shot in London and Riyadh, with 75 percent of the movie filmed in London. The cast and crew worked for seven weeks nonstop. “The London filming went very well. It was spectacular and everyone was happy.”

Filming in Riyadh started in autumn as they had to wait for the heat to subside.

For most of the crew, it was their first time in the Kingdom. Gomez said that the crew “really fell in love with the country. If you ask the cast and crew what they liked the most about Saudi Arabia, they will tell you the people.”

The filming in Riyadh took place in Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahad’s farm in Diriyah, “it’s like a reproduction of Saudi Arabia 100 years ago.”

The film consisted of 200 crew members, half of which were Saudi.

The actor playing King Abdulaziz is a Saudi working in Hollywood. “We did a casting in the Kingdom and 200 people came for the session. There was a lot of interest. We didn’t have any problems. The protagonist of the film is a boy from Jeddah. As for King Abdulaziz, we found a Saudi actor already working in Hollywood.”

The filmmakers are currently negotiating with Netflix, hoping that they will take the film for their platform. The movie has been filmed in English but it is also dubbed in Arabic.

Gomez is set to produce another Saudi movie — “Champions” — in January, about people with special needs in a help center in Jeddah.

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

Updated 16 September 2019

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

  • We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season, says GEA CEO Amr Banaja

RIYADH: Fireworks, concerts, festivals and international performances will be among the highlights of the 89th Saudi National Day celebrations this year.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced a season of record-breaking events for the annual celebration.

At a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, GEA CEO Amr Banaja said that Saudi citizens and residents can enjoy a number of entertainment activities planned across 13 regions of the Kingdom as part of the National Day season being supervised by the GEA from Sept. 19 to 23.

“The GEA is proud to oversee the Saudi National Day Season activities by launching a unified identity that brings together the society under “Himma Hatta El-Qimmah,” Banaja said, inspired by the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq mountain.”

The GEA was proud to be overseeing the occasion, Banaja said. “We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season befitting this dear country,” he said.

“This year fireworks celebrations will continue for several days where more than 700,000 shots will be fired at an altitude of up to 300 meters, accompanied by music,” he said.

Celebrations will be held in all regions during the season, and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of activities that reflected the unity of the nation and the cohesion of the people and leadership.

“Distinctive international shows designed especially for the National Day will be held in Riyadh from Sept. 21-23,” he said.

Fireworks will light up Jeddah over Al-Hamra Corniche accompanied by sound and light effects and laser shows.

At the five-day Dhahran Exhibition in Dammam starting on Sept. 19, the world’s largest theatrical producer “Cirque du Soleil” will present a specially designed show for Saudi National Day.

Forty artists will present 14 shows of acrobatics, sports, music, and dance. Eight concerts will also be held in a number of regions where, besides international stars, Saudi and Gulf artists will present patriotic songs.

The concerts will begin on the first day of the season on Sept. 19 at Al-Jouf University Stadium in Sakaka with performances by Khaled Abdulrahman and Nabil Shuail.

The next day, a concert will be held at King Khalid Sport City in Tabuk staged by artists Abdullah Al-Rowaished and Aseel Abu Bakr.

On Sept. 21, Majid Al-Mohandes and Dalia Mubarak will perform at Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Stadium in Hail.

On Sept. 22, two concerts will be performed at King Abdullah Sports City in Buraidah by artists Rashid Al-Majid and Balqees Fathi; the second at Prince Sultan Cultural Center in Jazan by “The Artist of Arabs” Mohammed Abdo and Turki.

On Saudi National Day (Sept. 23), three concerts will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Thousands will gather at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh to listen to singers Hussein Al-Jasmi and Abadi Al-Jawhar.

In Jeddah, Rabeh Saqr and the artist Waad will perform at King Abdullah Sports City, while in Dammam, and in the Green Halls in Riyadh, Kuwaiti singer Nawal and the artist Ayed will entertain the audience.

Five forums will take place in five cities, where a number of speakers will present inspirational events.

Forums will be held in Madinah and Tabuk on Sept. 19, while in Abha and Buraidah the forum will be held on Sept. 21 and in Hail on Sept. 23.

Banaja said that the GEA had created 150 smartphone apps for the National Day celebrations with 40,000 downloaded so far.

He thanked the security authorities for their efforts to make the season a success, and all government, private and nonprofit sectors for their contribution.

The programs were mostly free, he said, though there were some concerts for which tickets could be purchased online.

There will also be a major aero show in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, and a Saudi falcon show will be organized in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.