Meet Jumanah Shaheen, the Saudi VFX producer taking Hollywood by storm

Jumanah Shaheen’s most recent project was the music video to Taylor Swift’s new single “Cardigan.” (Instagram)
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Updated 22 September 2020

Meet Jumanah Shaheen, the Saudi VFX producer taking Hollywood by storm

LOS ANGELES: Jumanah Shaheen is one of the first Saudi women to work in visual effects in Hollywood. Her most recent project was the music video to Taylor Swift’s new single “Cardigan.”

This marks Shaheen’s second time working with the artist, the first being the 2017 hit “Look What You Made Me Do.”

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Almost snapped my neck by the end of the shoot Photographer: @niron8 Stylist: @norahaleisa Editor: @caitlingivvs

A post shared by Jumanah (@jumanah_shaheen) on

“What I thought was amazing about this project is that Taylor Swift actually directed this video,” Shaheen told Arab News. “It was great to see her in that role and see how she was able to take her knowledge and put that into the video.”

 

As a woman succeeding in the film industry, Shaheen is proud of her work and is looking to provide opportunities to other women facing the challenges she faced.

 

 

At the same time, she is proud and excited to be Saudi in a time when the Saudi film industry is taking off.

“Now we’re getting to hear a lot more stories that come from Saudi, that come from my culture, from our traditions,” she said. “It’s amazing to see all these amazingly talented people – writers, directors, producers (and) artists – all having this ability and opportunity to share their stories.”

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

amber asaly x ELLE arabia for july/august Issue ‎“الجنه بلاناس ماتنداس" . make up: @kerrieurban

A post shared by Jumanah (@jumanah_shaheen) on

Shaheen said she is glad to be a role model for Saudis and women that share her dream of working in the film industry. She encourages them not to simply imitate people like her, but to recognize the positive qualities of others and use them to be the best version of yourself.

 

“What I’m hoping with my experience here and be able to kind of provide those services for these new upcoming directors and artists to find that outlet with them,” the post production producer said. “So if you have an independent film I’m hoping that I can be your right hand in being able to make your vision come to life.”


REVIEW: US remake of ‘Utopia’ comes up short

The cast of 'Utopia' (Amazon)
Updated 22 October 2020

REVIEW: US remake of ‘Utopia’ comes up short

  • Lavish conspiracy drama misses the spark of the UK original

LONDON: Adapting a UK show for US (and, thanks to the reach of streaming platforms, international) audiences is a risky proposition. There have been far more misses than hits, with the British style of programming often proving difficult to recreate with anything other than the original cast, setting and tone.

It’s even more of a surprise that a US remake of “Utopia” was green-lit when you consider that the original 2013 UK run, though now regarded as something of a cult hit, was a divisive mix of graphic violence, head-spinning conspiratorial doublespeak and terrifyingly brilliant dystopian foreshadowing. Indeed, the original incarnation of the show was cancelled after just 12 episodes.

So how does the US version stack up? The premise is largely the same. A group of online friends, obsessed with the idea that a mysterious comic book has been predicting the world’s catastrophes, meet in real life when word leaks out of a newly discovered second volume. The misfits, each with their own distinctive foibles, find themselves on the run from a sinister organization that is hellbent on getting the book back. The only person they can turn to is the enigmatic Jessica Hyde, the ‘star’ of the comic book’s first volume.

In many ways, the US version simply transplants the action, characters and plot from the original, albeit it with the high-gloss buffing of modern TV production dollars. Sadly, in most cases, the 2020 version doesn’t fare well – Sasha Lane’s Jessica Hyde and Christopher Denham’s Arby, for example, lack the charisma of Fiona O’Shaughnessy or the horrifying blankness of Neil Maskell from the UK show.

Sasha Lane as Jessica Hyde in 'Utopia.' (Amazon)

There are some nice nods to the more modern setting – not to mention horribly unfortunate relevance, given the current global pandemic – and some big names making up the supporting cast (John Cusack and Rainn Wilson), but more often that not, the 2020 show lacks the claustrophobic menace that pervaded the UK original.

“Utopia” is still an enjoyably uncomfortable watch, and is (at times) still chillingly sinister. Those who missed the UK original might find something here, but those who caught the show first time round may feel a little underwhelmed.