Saudi film fans have last laugh as ‘Joker’ premieres in Jeddah

Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film at Vox Cinemas in the Red Sea Mall. (Photo courtesy: Vox cinemas KSA)
Updated 06 October 2019

Saudi film fans have last laugh as ‘Joker’ premieres in Jeddah

  • Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film
  • Moviegoers young and old flocked to see the gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, the mysterious Joker, a man disregarded by society

JEDDAH: With a black carpet rolled out for guests, Gotham City came to Jeddah for the highly anticipated movie premiere of “Joker.”
Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film at Vox Cinemas in the Red Sea Mall.
Moviegoers young and old flocked to see the gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, the mysterious Joker, a man disregarded by society.
Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. He wears two masks, the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he is part of the world around him.
Isolated, bullied and dismissed by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker, Batman’s arch enemy.
“Joker,” co-produced by Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger, stars other big-name actors alongside Phoenix including Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy.
As fans in Jeddah waited for the movie to start, they got into the spirit of the occasion by taking selfies wearing Joker T-shirts, with one film buff sporting a handmade Joker mask.
They also took it in turns to imitate the infamous Joker’s laugh, and some members of the audience continued to laugh along with him during the movie itself.
The film began by taking viewers to a makeup room where Fleck is seen stretching his mouth with his fingers in a forced smile.
“No one is born evil, just like Arthur Fleck. This movie shows how significant everyone’s stories are in making them who they are. It’s a must watch,” said Fadi Shahid.
Eerie and dark, despite the abundance of so-called jokes, the story and cinematography were depicted as sad, unpredictable and very disturbing, according to one Jeddah cinema enthusiast, Rsha Khan.
“I didn’t expect to like the movie, as my friends and I see Heath Ledger as the one and only Joker, but Phoenix’s acting and portrayal of the character was amazing.”
The story connected the audience to the Joker, developing a love-hate relationship with sides of his character not seen in previous movies.
Despite strong reviews from fans, including raves for Phoenix, the film has been met with skepticism in some quarters. However, the Saudi audience gasped, laughed and applauded as Phoenix blew new life into Batman’s rival.
Khan added: “I would love to watch this Joker against Batman; I feel like that is definitely something I want to see.” 
The film had viewers on the edge of their seats throughout its two-hour duration and Samia Sheikh said: “It was such a bold and dark movie; still it was beautiful. I really liked that they showed the Joker’s real feelings behind his terrifying personality, which was sad to watch. The whole movie was an emotional roller coaster.”
She also praised Phoenix for his performance in the role of Fleck and said she would recommend the movie to anyone.


‘Arabs Are Not Funny’ comedy show just the opposite

Taking the stage at London’s lavish Royal Albert Hall were mixed Arab-Western comedians. (Supplied)
Updated 22 February 2020

‘Arabs Are Not Funny’ comedy show just the opposite

LONDON: Don’t let the name fool you, Friday night’s “Arabs Are Not Funny” comedy show was filled with nothing but quick-witted, snarky and overly-relatable quips. 

Taking the stage at London’s lavish Royal Albert Hall were mixed Arab-Western comedians Wary Nichen, Leila Ladhari, Mamoun Elagab and Esther Manito, with Iraqi-Scottish Sezar Alkassab hosting. 

The sold-out show started off with the host forcing the zaghrouta (a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound of joy) out of the audience, after encouraging them to “laugh at our culture and enjoy yourself.”

Sudanese-Irishman Elagab, who was recently nominated for BBC New Comedian of the Year, kicked off the night with a comedic look back at his upbringing in the UK, dealing with extremists in class, and the struggle of explaining stand-up comedy to his Sudanese uncle.

The sold-out show started off with the host forcing the zaghrouta. (Supplied)

Lebanese-Brit Manito humored the audience with stories of the struggle of taking her British husband to Beirut to meet her relatives, raising two children as an Arab mom, and having her Lebanese father living with her family yelling and cursing at the TV and on the phone. 

Tunisian-Swiss-Austrian Ladhari joked about her boyfriend’s father trying to bond with her by trying to sympathize with Daesh and letting her know that he “too doesn’t like eating pork.”

The highlight of the night was Algerian-Frenchman Nichen, who spoke of his job as a fulltime immigrant and the racism he endures in daily life in Paris. 

The show was organized by Arts Canteen, an organization that curates and produces events, exhibitions and festivals that support emerging, mid-career and established artists from the Arab world and surrounding regions, bringing their work to new audiences in the UK and beyond.