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.