JEDDAH/RIYADH: “Six Windows in the Desert,” a series of short films created by Saudis, will make its Netflix debut on Thursday, streaming in 190 countries.
After buying the rights from Telfaz11, one of the Kingdom’s leading film studios, Netflix’s latest series will offer its global audience an insight into stories told through a Saudi lens, tackling topics including social taboos and extremism.
The films are “27th of Shaban,” a film by Mohammed Al-Salman; “Predicament in Sight” by Faris Godus; “Wasati” by Ali Kalthami, who won best director and best foreign film at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in 2017; “Is Sumiyati Going to Hell?” — a film directed by Meshal Al-Jaser that won best foreign short film at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in 2017 — and Al-Jarthy, or “The Rat,” by Faisal Al- Amer.
Al-Amer spoke to Arab News about his work, the importance of the streaming of the series on Netflix and the growing opportunities for Saudi film makers in the industry.
Inspired by his own life, “The Rat,” a 10-minute short film that he wrote and directed, tells the story of Fahad, who spends the last day of his life with the fear of his father looming over him. Like a rat on a wheel, Fahad scurries through cycles of fear characterized by different aspects of his father as he tries to break free.
“We as Saudis, tell a story, our story, and as filmmakers or creators don’t need to sugar-coat or create a flowery image of our society,” Al-Amer told Arab News. “This is us, we don’t create movies for the approval of the West, we make them to express ourselves.”
Al-Amer was the co-creator of “Masameer,” an animated Youtube series that is considered one of the most successful local cartoon mini-series. It talks sarcastically about issues in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world through short stories represented by quirky and funny-looking characters. “Al-Jarthy” is expressive but does not necessarily have an underlying message, something that he feels is not essential in all films.
“Symbolism is what gives my film its identity,” he told Arab News. “I am entertained, as a filmmaker I don’t need an underlying message. I create movies to allow the viewer to see that the creator took time and made the effort to create, even if it is a short film. It allows the viewer to be curious and inquisitive, that to me is more important.”
Al-Amer said that the point of the creation of these movies is the experience. “The creators were able to explore different approaches to creativity. From cinematography to screen writing and ideas, each short film explores this.”
The Six Movies
- 27th of Shaban (2019): In the early 2000s, Mohammed and Nouf meet for a date; an act prohibited in Saudi Arabia. This film by Mohamed Al Salman shows how the date unfolds.
- Predicament in Sight (2016): A science-fiction short set in the 1970’s. Directed by Fairs Godus, survivors of a plane crash in an isolated desert area are forced to co-exist after multiple attempts to communicate with the outside world had failed.
- Wasati (2016): Based on the true story of extremists attacking a play called Wasati bela Wastiah (A Moderate without Moderation) in Riyadh 15 years ago, the film retells the events from a different point of view. Directed by Ali Kalthami, Wasati won Best Director and Best Foreign Film at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in 2017. Read an Arab News interview with Kalthami about the film here.
- The Rat (2018): Fahad spends the last day of his life with the fear of his father looming over his head. Like a rat on a wheel, Fahad scurries through cycles of fear characterized by different aspects of his father and tries to break free. Written and directed by Faisal Al Amer.
- Is Sumyati going to Hell? (2016): A film through the eyes of Layan, the youngest child of a family who employs housemaid Sumyati. Having to deal with the racism of her employers, Sumyati tries to survive. Directed by Meshal Al Jaser, the film won Foreign Short Film at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards in 2017.
- Curtain (2018): A female nurse escaping traumatic events faces fear and judgement at her workplace. Directed by Mohamed Alsalman.