RIYADH: Yasin Ghazzawi is the man of the moment in Saudi cinema. As star of the new wrestling film “Malik Al-Halaba”, or King of the Ring, his image is hard to miss in theaters across the Kingdom.
While already a familiar face to local audiences, he says his big screen debut is a realization of a life-long dream that mirrors his film character, Musaab.
The film charts Musaab’s story as he coasts in a job at his brother’s company while hoping for something more. Influenced by his father’s love for wrestling, he takes the plunge into the sport and finally finds a true passion.
The actor said Musaab’s challenges resonated when he first read the script, and reflected the “struggles I’m going through as an actor.
“I’ve always thought there is something bigger out there for me,” said Ghazzawi.
“Acting was such a reach for a long time and, for some people, it still is. It’s still definitely a new thing, and connecting with the theme of following your dreams was easy for me because that’s what I’m doing right now.”
“It’s an underdog story. It’s a guy whose life is happening to him, and he decides to take matters into his own hands and follow his dreams after a long period of time… it’s never too late to go for what you want,” Ghazzawi said.
“I felt so many similarities between him and me, and it felt like this was meant to be — a higher calling, if you will.”
King of the Ring tackles family issues, such as pressure to marry and getting and keeping a good job, but also highlights less discussed problems such as body shaming and the underestimation of women’s capabilities.
The film is credited as a heartwarming, family-friendly venture that inspires youngsters to stand up for themselves with the clear message: Do not let anyone stop you from fulfilling your dreams, no matter where you are in life.
Ghazzawi recalls watching the hilarious absurdity of the Jack Black wrestling film “Nacho Libre” and wanted to do the same.
Weeks later, he got a call from an MBC Studios representative about a script he would be perfect for. “I just got goosebumps from then,” he told Arab News.
The storyline also resembles last year’s wrestling comedy “Sattar,” currently the highest grossing box office Saudi film. Ghazzawi says twin films are a recurring phenomenon even in Hollywood, and wrestling is one of the great Saudi loves.
“It’s great that we have two wrestling movies that are good and fun to watch,” he says. “We need people to see and have confidence in us and see good movies and enjoy Arab and Saudi films.
“For me, there’s no better win. Sattar doing great is like me doing great, and (vice versa). And if we both are doing great, the industry is doing great.”
While the actor acknowledges the “phenomenal” support for the film and TV industry in the Kingdom, he says there’s more work to do.
“I feel like the industry is going to a good place, and the people that are creating this also need to realize that they have a lot of responsibility on their hands… be conscious that you’re going to affect people’s lives.”
While comedy is one of his passions, the actor, who most recently appeared on TV in the Saudi adaptation of The Office, “Al-Maktab,” hopes to venture out into other genres.
“I want to do it all… my goal as an actor is to reach the world, and I want people to watch a Saudi film and appreciate it and love it just as much as a foreign film,” he says.
King of the Ring is a co-production by MBC Studios, Image Nation and Vox Cinema. Cast members also include Sana Bakr Yunus, Mohamed Lotfy, Hakeem Jomah, Salma Abu-Deif, Mahira Abdelaziz, Shadi Alfons, and Faisal Kurdi.