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

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

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.

The Saudi startup that's taking a creative approach to humanitarian work

Updated 13 min 37 sec ago

The Saudi startup that's taking a creative approach to humanitarian work

The Saudi startup that's taking a creative approach to humanitarian work
  • Bab Boutique is helping refugees one stitch at a time

JEDDAH: Women refugees and others facing hardship on the margins are developing their creative talents with the help of a Saudi fashion startup.

Bab Boutique was established in 2016 to give marginalized communities the space and resources to invest in their creativity, and to encourage female refugees and others to celebrate their identity and culture.

The boutique describes itself as a “platform to celebrate stories of survival, striving and invisible success through handcrafted pieces created with care and love.”

Bab Boutique was initially set up by Rafah Sahab, Asma Aljifri, Hessa Alrubian, Mariam Alrubian and Fajer Burhamah as a therapeutic activity to support and help Syrian women who had fled their war-torn homeland.

Sahab, a psychotherapist, said that the boutique’s founders were driven by the belief that mental health is just as important as physical well-being.

“The plan was to provide traditional one-to-one therapy sessions during my visits to refugee camps or by securing funds for local therapists in hosting communities like Lebanon and Jordan,” said Sahab.

However, after a few visits, Sahab realized that many refugees were looking for a job, not mental health support.

“I was humbled by their grit and determination to find ways to provide for their children,” she said. “So we joined with local partners to give them a chance to express their creativity.”

Sahab decided to replace the therapy sessions with handicraft work since it was clear that lack of employment was affecting the refugees’ sense of dignity and self-respect.

In collaboration with the Thekra Organization in Jordan, Bab launched its first collection, “Stories of Syria,” which featured hand-embroidered bags in different sizes that celebrated aspects of Syrian culture, including weddings, and the wheat and olive harvests.

“We asked the refugees what we could learn from Syrian culture, and the women began sharing stories that they loved, and these were converted into drawings which the women then embroidered,” said Sahab.

“We took care of selling the collection in the GCC market.”

The market for Bab Boutique’s hand-embroidered products is bigger than many might think, and includes devotees of slow fashion, sustainability, handicraft and environmentally friendly products.

As their efforts began to bear fruit, the boutique’s co-founders discovered that far from being helpers and the refugees victims, the relationship was more cooperative, educational and insightful for both parties.

“We learned that these people have a lot that they can teach us; they have culture, art and creativity that we can benefit from,” said Sahab.

“They are not just refugees, they are people with dreams, potential, capacity, ideas and skills, as well as pain and disappointments. They’re just normal human beings.”

Sahab said that her work with refugees has taught her that “inside every one of us there is a divine power; there is flexibility, and the ability to be creative and overcome hardship.”

In collaboration with Jeddah-based artist Doa Bugis, Bab Boutique recently introduced “Migrating Birds,” a new collection of finely embroidered bags by Syrian refugees in Lebanon based on art pieces created by Bugis, whose works focus on exploring grief, loss, migration and hybrid identities.

“I have been an admirer of Bab for years. The Stories of Syria collection caught my eye and have drawn me into Bab’s own narrative, values and ethics,” said Bugis. “Knowing what they stand for, I said yes without giving it a second thought.

“Migrating Birds has been brewing in my head for years. I’ve always been interested in hybrid identities and spent about six years researching the subject,” Doa Bugis told Arab News.

“One of the main factors behind mixed identities is migration. It has been a phenomenon rooted in history. People have always relocated for better jobs, opportunities and living conditions. Whether the reasons were religious, economical or educational, uprooting yourself and your family is not an easy journey.”

Bugis sketched this narrative with words and then translated it visually. After many attempts she finally created an eye-catching miniature painting that combined Islamic art and calligraphy.

The finely embroidered bags feature images of birds, and phrases such as “In migration, there is loss and existence.”

Bab now hopes refugees can be valued for the cultural richness they bring with them.

“We want to change the fact that money and property is the judge for someone’s richness. You can be financially poor, but rich in culture and art; we want to make this shift,” Sahab said.

She said that the startup hopes to foster a new approach to humanitarian work that will give people the capacity to build for themselves and sustain their lives.

Bab plans to continue working with refugees on special lines and collections, but is also working on building communities both inside and outside the Kingdom.

“We believe that Bab is an imperfect project, an ever-evolving process of trial and error,” said Sahab.

“We have a growth mindset. We try to have patience and work slowly against societal and business industry expectations.”
Although social entrepreneurship is a new concept in the Saudi market, Sahab is optimistic about the future.

“Social businesses were not popular in the past. However, recently new regulations were set to support them. I expect a better future for social startups and social entrepreneurship.”  

Bab Boutique products are available online and at concept stores in Saudi Arabia. They can be found at https://babboutique.store and Instagram account @babboutique.me.