RIYADH: Filmmaking duo “The Godus Brothers” raised the curtain on their latest, most ambitious project to date with their first full-length feature film, Shams Alma’arif (The Book of Sun) premiered on Thursday night in Jeddah, and Riyadh on Saturday night.
The film, directed by Faris Godus and produced by Sohayb Godus, who also stars in the film, was shot in Saudi Arabia.
Originally slated to premiere at the now-labeled "Label Edition" Red Sea Film Festival, the film is a must-see coming-of-age story that the Saudi youth can relate to.
The film stars Baraa Alem as Husam, a high school senior with a passion for filmmaking. He and his best friend Maan, played by Ismail Alhasan, are struggling to maintain popularity with their comedic YouTube channel. When caught filming on school property, they find an unlikely ally in their physics teacher Orabi, played by Sohayb Godus, who insists on joining them when he finds out that they are planning to make a movie of their own.
Sohayb told Arab News about the excitement of making their first feature film, and how he felt like their past experiences as content creators had affected them.
“Faris and I are so excited, because this has been our dream since childhood. Creating content on digital platforms made us realize that we could achieve the dream of making a feature film. We realized it was doable and I think this applies to all content creators in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“(In Saudi Arabia) we have a rich soil to build content on and so many stories to tell. I do believe that nowadays the support coming from our country is just awesome. People have so many chances to create films now,” he added.
Faris, who also wrote the script, said that he hoped viewers would enjoy the personal nature of the story.
“This is a story that is very close to our hearts. It’s very personal to everyone who worked on it, because it’s based in large part on our own story. I hope that everyone who sees it will realize the importance of supporting the arts,” he said.
Speaking to Arab News, Alem told of his experience of playing the main character, and how he felt bringing the story to life on screen.
“Faris wrote an incredibly personal story, in more ways than one. You can imagine the character of Husam as an amalgamation of both of us, in a way. Reliving ten years’ worth of past experience, my passion for cinema and filmmaking, and the mischief we used to get up to in school, was an incredibly personal experience,” he said.
He hopes that viewers would leave the film feeling like they can relate to the characters, or that they could consider the characters in the film their friends.
“It’s basically a character film. The story is great, but you can’t help but fall in love with these characters first,” he said.
Though the “movie-within-a-movie” premise is hardly a new one, the film offers a refreshing twist on an old trope. The film is a glorious, nostalgic romp through Jeddah in 2010, during the golden age of the Saudi YouTube movement. Peppered with references to Saudi pop culture and offering an interesting take on the history of Saudi cinema and television.
The film also features moments that are poignant, emotionally taxing, and familiar to any Saudis who dreamt of working in the creative industry ten years ago. It also highlights the often-vicious comments that are the bread-and-butter of Saudi YouTubers, in one of the film’s most emotional sequences.
The laughs are almost non-stop, even interspersed with surprising moments of tenderness and wisdom. The film perfectly encapsulates the complex feelings of an entire generation of Saudi youth, who struggled before the current era to imagine a future when creative professions could ever be taken seriously.
Shams AlMa’arif showcases the trials and tribulations of becoming a filmmaker in Saudi Arabia in an age where actors and directors needed to be creative in order to see their visions achieved, battling a lack of resources, support from society, and access to locations for filming.
Shams AlMa’arif is now available to watch in MUVI cinemas across Saudi Arabia and will be available in all cinemas by July 31st.