DUBAI: International experts in the film industry this week discussed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become a leading production hub at Red Sea 360° —a four-day industry event at Red Sea Souk during the Red Sea International Film Festival.
The event hosts a series of talks on production, innovation and finance in the entertainment industry. It is welcoming over 50 panellists from all over the world for the 2022 edition.
“It’s a new market for us and it’s quickly expanding, and it’s very young when compared to European audiences,” said Livia Van Der Staay, who is in charge of business development at France’s Wild Bunch Intl., during a panel at the event.
“It’s also interesting from a talent’s perspective because with new audiences comes an emergence of new talent. We’ve worked with Middle Eastern directors many times but never a Saudi, so we are really looking forward to discovering their talent,” he added.
Van Der Staay also talked about the tax incentives, including the 40 percent cash rebate established this year by the Saudi Film Commission.
“Everybody knows about the incentives and it’s great to see people taking these opportunities. I am in the middle of a Saudi production where we applied for the rebate, and it’s looking like it will be an efficient system,” he said.
The panel centered on the importance of creating local productions instead of replicating work done in Western countries.
“The idea is not to adapt to other standards, is to see the perception the audiences here have of the films and how we can adapt to the specificities of a region,” added Van Der Staay. “The idea is not to renounce a culture, so it fits in a sort of mold.”
US producer, publisher and media consultant David Uslan said that he is interested in producing stories from the region. “I spend a lot of time in places like Saudi looking for content we can build off from. I have been surprised with the quality of what has been created in this region, so that is what we have been hunting down, the next IP to adapt into franchises,” he said.
Fans of Ronaldo and Rodriguez gathered outside the restaurant to cheer the couple following the celebration.
The model last week featured at the Joy Awards in Riyadh, showing off a midnight blue form-fitting velvet gown by Dubai-based Tunisian designer Ali Karoui. Her look featured a matching veil, gold pumps from Italian luxury shoemakers Le Silla, and jewelry from Kooheji, of Bahrain.
The Netflix star, who now calls Saudi Arabia home after her partner signed a record-breaking deal with Al-Nassr, shared her pictures on Instagram, and wrote: “A big thank you to everyone, love you Saudi Arabia.”
Rodriguez also showed up to support her long-time partner as he made his Al-Nassr debut against Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday.
The footballer, 37, captained the team to a 1-0 win at Mrsool Park in Riyadh, while Rodriguez cheered on from the sidelines in a Ronaldo jersey, paired with cut-off jeans and a jacket.
“For people who liked the jacket of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and are not able to (buy it) because of the price, this jacket is similar to it and has a number of colors and all sizes and a cheaper price,” wrote one user.
Another user noticed that the website ShopStyle increased the price of the vest after it was worn by the crown prince.
In 2021, he was photographed wearing a quilted gilet while chairing a board meeting of the Public Investment Fund.
The prince showed off a $6,551 casual sleeveless vest by UK luxury cashmere brand Franck Namani.
In 2019, he attended the Formula E races in Riyadh wearing a navy-colored Barbour jacket worn over a crisp white thobe that immediately sent the internet into overdrive.
The outerwear item by the British heritage brand sparked its own Arabic hashtag on Twitter — that translated to “crown prince’s jacket” — with many taking to the social media platform to admire the look.
Saudi writer, director and producer Ali Al-Kalthami talks success
As one of the co-founders of Telfaz11, the writer-director-producer is now reaping the rewards of years spent establishing an authentic entertainment industry in the Kingdom
Updated 28 January 2023
DUBAI: Ali Al-Kalthami is trying not to let it all go to his head. But that’s easier said than done. As one of the three co-founders of the pioneering Saudi production company Telfaz11, Al-Kalthami is one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s film future. And, as we’ve seen over the last two months, that future is now.
In that short span of time, Telfaz11’s film “Raven Song” became the latest Saudi submission to the Academy Awards, their theatrical release “Sattar” became the highest-grossing Saudi film in history, and their latest feature, “Al Khallat+,” just became the first Netflix original film from Saudi.
“This is not overnight success, of course,” Al-Kalthami explains to Arab News. “It’s been 12 years of experience, 12 years of staying true to our stories, our philosophy, and our talents. We’re grateful that all of these projects are flourishing at the same time, but we’ve been working a long time for these things to take place, and we’re most proud that we got here by doing it the right way — doing it our way.”
We’re speaking to the writer/director/producer over Zoom and he doesn’t want to turn his camera on. It’s nothing personal, he explains, he’s just been filming for 12 hours straight, directing his upcoming theatrical feature “Night Courier,” a dark crime comedy, in Riyadh and he doesn’t want anyone to see him. His mood, however, belies his exhaustion — he’s still thrilled to gush about “Al Khallat+,” perhaps the Telfaz11 project that is closest to his heart.
The film is a continuation of the 22-episode anthology web series he created, which has amassed an astounding 1.5 billion views — a viewership far too big to qualify this as a ‘cult hit.’ Rather, Al-Kalthami and co., through their years of viral YouTube videos, have defined what Saudi Arabia’s mainstream entertainment looks like, building grassroots support with content that is wholeheartedly Saudi, made with a love and authenticity that allows them to push boundaries and subvert expectations, an aesthetic that is defined in “Al-Khallat.”
“From the start, I thought about doing a show that reflects the Saudi psyche. We wanted to capture everyday life in a way that that appeals to real people with engaging, well-crafted storytelling,” the creator explains.
While “Al Khallat+” tells a number of unrelated stories — two thieves crash a wedding to rescue their captured partner, a chef risks his restaurant trying to save his parent’s marriage, a mother searches for her husband who in turn is searching for his son in a nightclub — they each share a defining theme, one that Al-Kalthami and his collaborators discovered while holed up writing together during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“We went back to the 22 episodes we’d released on the internet, and wanted to figure out what worked and what didn’t as we started to work on the feature. And for some strange reason, we found that the stories that worked had something in common. In each of them, there was a character who had to hustle their way out of an issue brought on by society’s restrictions — and we don’t mean that negatively,” Al-Kalthami says.
“If you think about Saudi Arabia as a largely conservative society, that comes with a lot of rules that cause restraints on social life. Watching people hustle around those restraints becomes funny, because people can relate to those situations. We approach it with a very local mindset, and that allows Saudis to come along for the ride with us.”
While “Al Khallat” has a perspective purely his own, Al-Kalthami is always quick to give credit to his collaborators. If he is proud of anything personally, it’s that he’s created a platform which has allowed the Kingdom’s rising talent to thrive, from the myriad actors featured to the crew behind the camera, many of whom he has known for years.
“When I saw the first edit, I was very emotional. I was able to see in front of my eyes so clearly all the ideas that we’d written come to life through such great production. Fahad Alammari, the director, executed this so well, for example, and seeing all these actors — all of my friends — having fun bringing these characters to life is so rewarding,” says Al-Kalthami.
“From the beginning, I always wanted this to go somewhere beyond the internet. I had no other experience at the time, but I knew we would get there eventually. To have something that I created with my friends get picked up and treated as a franchise is very humbling.”
The challenge that Al-Kalthami now faces is to keep pushing forward and rewriting the template that he and his collaborators have made.
“As a writer, you often create this illusion around yourself when you create something successful. If you’re not careful, there’s a barrier that rises between you and reality. You have to force yourself not to believe the hype, to be true to who you are and true to the society you live in — and force yourself to keep living in it. You can’t isolate yourself and become carried away by your success,” he says. “You have to embrace life, and live like a normal person, and get inspired the right way. I’m always trying to force myself to stay grounded, which can be very tricky with this kind of success, especially when you’re in on the ground floor. You have to force yourself to continue to push the envelope, break boundaries and do great work, and you have to help build this industry the right way. That’s the responsibility of pioneers.”
While Al-Kalthami is usually focused on the future — committed to pushing himself as a writer and helping Saudi talent flourish both within his own projects and theirs — he does, occasionally, allow himself to look back and take stock of all he and Telfaz11 have accomplished over the last dozen years. Often, the emotion hits when he least expects it.
“Somebody sent me a TikTok video last week. In it, someone had put together pictures of all the Telfaz11 founders, filmmakers and family members, spanning every moment they could find from 2010 to 2022. They wrote that we were the voice of our local inner life, that we were filmmakers that Saudis believe in. It was just so poetic, so nice, and so innocent. It just really got to me,” Al-Kalthami says. “I was so overwhelmed, I could hardly control it. To know that a lot of people in Saudi feel we represent their voice, their authentic life, truly means everything.”
ULTRA Abu Dhabi music festival releases lineup of headliners for debut edition
Updated 28 January 2023
LONDON: The international music festival, ULTRA Worldwide, has announced the first wave of headliners set to play the inaugural edition of ULTRA Abu Dhabi on March 4-5 at Etihad Park.
“Multi-award winning and platinum-record selling artist Afrojack is no stranger to headlining ULTRA Main Stages across the world, and will be on hand to deliver yet another high-octane set,” organizers said.
“Responsible for some of the biggest hits in the world, Grammy-nominated Calvin Harris will bring the beats to Yas Island for one of his signature high-energy sets (and) Dharma Worldwide boss KSHMR will whip the crowd into a frenzy with his culture-crossing sonics,” they also said.
Gud Vibrations label co-founder NGHTMRE will appear on the Main Stage with his signature blend of electronic music and producer Skrillex, who has won eight Grammy Awards — more than any other electronic dance music artist, will bring his shapeshifting soundscapes to the festival.
ULTRA Abu Dhabi will also host ULTRA’s underground techno and house concept RESISTANCE, featuring Drumcode founder and Swedish techno titan Adam Beyer.
“Producer and EXHALE label boss Amelie Lens will return to the Middle East to deliver her mesmerising blend of techno, while British legends Sasha_John Digweed bring decades of dance floor expertise to Abu Dhabi,” they added.
Etihad Park, located on Yas Island, is the largest open-air venue in the region and one of the world’s fastest growing leisure and entertainment destinations.
“ULTRA Worldwide sets the benchmark when it comes to delivering the ultimate festival experience, combining top-tier talent, cutting-edge technology and large-scale productions,” the statement said, adding: “As the most international music festival brand boasting active events on all six inhabited continents, it’s no surprise that ULTRA Worldwide’s Middle East debut will be one of the most highly anticipated events across the UAE this year.”
The three-day festival will offer a premium general experience pass that allows access holders to dedicated entrance gates, toilets, food and beverage stands, as well as a private lounge area. It will also offer VVIP passes at both stages.