Historical Saudi drama ‘Born a King’ opens in cinemas to rave reviews

The cast of ‘Born a King’ includes a number of Saudi actors and crew, with filming taking place between the Kingdom and the UK. (Social media photo)
Updated 27 September 2019

Historical Saudi drama ‘Born a King’ opens in cinemas to rave reviews

  • Jeddah’s Vox Cinema was packed with viewers of all ages eager to see Saudi history brought to life on silver screen

JEDDAH: Saudi film fans were on Thursday left thirsting for more after the long-awaited release of the historical drama “Born a King” finally hit the Kingdom’s cinema screens.

“I felt proud to be from Saudi Arabia,” said moviegoer Asayl Al-Zahrani after watching 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.

Jeddah’s Vox Cinema was packed with viewers of all ages eager to see Saudi history brought to life on the silver screen.

Set in 1919, the film was partly shot in Riyadh and Diriyah, and sees a teenage Faisal, later to become king of Saudi Arabia, as the young hero sent by his father to lead negotiations in London with the fate of his nation resting on his shoulders.

The theater audience watched in amazement as the movie recounted how Prince Faisal (played by Abdullah Ali) negotiated with some of the pre-eminent figures of the age, including Lord Curzon (Kenneth Cranham) and Winston Churchill (Celyn Jones), while forming a friendship with Princess Mary (Hermione Corfield) who helped guide him through the corridors of power.

Enamored with the character of Prince Faisal, viewers laughed and even shouted out in anger in reaction to the prince’s clever responses to those ridiculing Arabs or one scene when his attaché was kicked out of their hotel.

The movie was amazing. I never expected it to be that good. There were clips where I felt extremely proud of my country and the kings of Saudi Arabia.

Asayl Al-Zahrani, Moviegoer

The film’s cast included hundreds of Saudis, and Al-Zahrani, 23, told Arab News she was impressed by the scale of the production. 

“The movie was amazing. I never expected it to be that good. There were clips where I felt extremely proud of my country and the kings of Saudi Arabia.”

She said that the scenes portraying Prince Faisal’s wisdom were the ones she liked the most and added: “Another part that I enjoyed was when Prince Faisal returned to Najd and his father, then Prince Abdul Aziz, expressed how proud he was of his son. The movie affected me so much that whenever the British looked down on the prince or his acquaintances, I felt angry.”

Another cinema fan, Abdullah Al-Halawani, also lauded director Agusti Villaronga’s flick. “The production of the movie was better than expected. The scenery they chose, and the locations painted a picture of how the environment must have been in the past.

“I would love to watch more movies about the history of our country, because when my mother and grandmother tell me stories about events that happened in their past, films like ‘Born a King’ will aid my imagination and help me picture things better,” said Al-Halawani.

He added that big-screen versions of such tales were better than reading about them in a book.

Lina Baja’afar said: “I thought it was pretty good on the whole, but I felt that the story dragged on a little bit. It would’ve been nice to see more events and the progression of King Faisal’s life than having a film solely concentrated on this trip.”

She added that the acting was excellent and was impressed with how the actors toned down their accents and spoke in broken English to fit the times.

“Born a King,” which also stars Ed Skrein and Rubén Ochandiano, is now showing in cinemas throughout the Kingdom.

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

Updated 14 October 2019

Global stars shine at Saudi leisure forum

  • “It (Saudi Movies) will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi,” Shahrukh Khan 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia took another step toward establishing its place on the global entertainment map with a major industry event in Riyadh on Sunday.

The Joy Forum19 brought together entertainment promoters and pioneers from around the world, along with global stars such as Indian actor and film producer Shah Rukh Khan; Hong Kong martial artist, actor, film director Jackie Chan and Belgian actor and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The event was organized by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which signed several important agreements on the day, including a financing guarantee program for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Participants are ushered in on the first day of the Joy Forum19 event in Riyadh. (Social media photo)

“Our message is for both, locally and internationally. Me and my generation suffered a lot, we had lots of time on our hands,” GEA chairman Turki Al-Sheikh said at the event.

“Today you are witnessing things we have never had in Saudi Arabia. We have 300,000 visitors to our events, and our sales have hit 80 percent.

“Saudi Arabia has never seen anything like Riyadh Season, we have over 400 sponsors, which is unprecedented.”

Al-Sheikh announced that the authority had named a stadium after singer Mohammed Abdo, the “Artist of Arabs,” and another after Abu Baker Salim, the father of Khaleeji music. 

READ MORE: Three MoUs signed at opening day of Joy Forum19 in Riyadh

Drunken master

The actors expressed what it meant to be movie stars and how wide-reaching their influence could be.

Jackie Chan recalled that when he was a new actor, he often acted like a drunken fighter until he realized that he has a responsibility towards younger fans. 

Jackie Chan: no longer a "drunken master". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“All over the world I keep drinking and fighting (in films).  I realized that I made drunken master cool — so I stopped,” he said. One of Chan's most popular movies was the 1978 action comedy martial arts film "Drunken Master".

“When you’re 20 you don’t have this inner thought — anything that makes the audience laugh you do, but later on especially (when I went) to Africa so many years ago — they started doing the drunken style — the children look up to me. So, I realized we have a responsibility to the children so all those years I corrected those actions: no dirty comedy words or action,” he said.

He attributed his awareness in being responsible for the content he produces to the fans. “I’m really thankful to the fans in making me a good actor.”

Chan spoke about his experience in acting martial arts in both the United States and Asia. “I realized we have two different markets one for America another for Asia. They are totally two different things.”

The safety measures the US takes for stunts is very impeccable making sure of the wellbeing of the actor comes first. However, in Asia it’s a different story, “In Asia when I want to do a stunt, I roll, jump (and then go to the) hospital, he said laughingly.

“It’s so difficult sometimes in the USA so many rules- Jackie Chan movies: NO RULES!” he said and received applause from the audience.


Good start

Jean Claude Van Damme gave a shout out and a big thank you to all his “brother and sisters from Saudi Arabia,” He said he got a royal treatment fit for “Kings and Queens”. He went on to reveal that his hotel room at the Ritz Carlton Riyadh was so big he could easily “roller-skate” in it.

Jean Claude Van Damme: "Let's do a movie together". (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“I’m honored to be invited here. I know it’s your first time to do this event, but I know it will have a very bright future and I hope next year you will invite more people,” he said.

He said he may not be a “good talker” but expressed his joy at being in Saudi Arabia saying. “I’m happy to be here and I hope to have more connection later with the audience.”

Van Damme remarked how that in every country in the world you have treasure actors and movies with different cultures, “In the Middle East I don’t know what the taste will be, but I know they love American, Asian and Indian movies. They have a broad taste. (Saudi Arabia) should do a movie with all of us together!”


Crossing barriers

Sharukh Khan emphasized the importance of every country telling their story through movies; “As long as we are telling the story in whatever language it doesn’t matter. Cinema crosses all barriers.”

Shahrukh Khan: "I'd audition for a Saudi movie". (Social media photo)

With the opening of Saudi Arabia to the world and Cinemas, he said, “I can’t wait to talk about the Saudi films...It will bring Saudis closer to the world and the world closer to Saudi.”

“The stories that you tell should talk about goodness and people should be engaged with the content and it should bring them together. People want to laugh and sadly have to cry, to be entertained and to feel.”

Sharukh noted that Saudi Arabia has started to make movies and he’s watched the King Faisal movie, "Born a King". 

“You’ll always find gems in all movie industries and I think there’s are gems in Saudi and as a matter of fact one of the things I’d like to do is audition for a Saudi movie … Please give me an opportunity!” he said, eliciting a thunderous applause from the audience.

Red carpet

Abdulaziz AlMuzaini, co-founder and CEO of the Saudi Arabian Myrkott Animation Studio; gave a heartfelt thanks full of gratitude to King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying: “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have dreamed of this moment or this panel.”

Some of the celebrities invited to the event walk the red carpet. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Lebanese actor Wahid Jalal, who was the voice of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, came onstage for the opening of the event. “Children love heroes and they try to imitate them,” he said. 

He also delighted the crowd by performing Silver’s famous laugh.

Some of the celebrities who walked down the red carpet were American actor Jason Momoa, star of Aquaman; Amr Adeeb, Balqis Fathi, Yusra, Boosy Shalabi, Lojien and Aseel Omran, Mohammed Hamaki, Nawal AlZoghbi, Talal Salama, Ahlam Al-Shamsi, Hussain AlJismi, Suad Abdulla, Ibrahem Alharbi, Tariq Alali and Abdulnaser Darweesh.

The gala dinner hosted 500 guests and was a private event, but the red carpet captured the essence of where Saudi is moving to culturally.