Saudi filmmaker delights with quirky, genre-bending offering

Saudi filmmaker delights with quirky, genre-bending offering
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In the film, a fantastical world unravels when a kind cinephile, whose home is a shrine dedicated to cinema, tells the tale of a gang of pre-teens who were sent on a psychedelic mission to save humanity and escape a spell cast on them by a coven of witches. (Supplied)
Saudi filmmaker delights with quirky, genre-bending offering
2 / 4
In the film, a fantastical world unravels when a kind cinephile, whose home is a shrine dedicated to cinema, tells the tale of a gang of pre-teens who were sent on a psychedelic mission to save humanity and escape a spell cast on them by a coven of witches. (Supplied)
Saudi filmmaker delights with quirky, genre-bending offering
3 / 4
In the film, a fantastical world unravels when a kind cinephile, whose home is a shrine dedicated to cinema, tells the tale of a gang of pre-teens who were sent on a psychedelic mission to save humanity and escape a spell cast on them by a coven of witches. (Supplied)
Saudi filmmaker delights with quirky, genre-bending offering
4 / 4
In the film, a fantastical world unravels when a kind cinephile, whose home is a shrine dedicated to cinema, tells the tale of a gang of pre-teens who were sent on a psychedelic mission to save humanity and escape a spell cast on them by a coven of witches. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 November 2023
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Saudi filmmaker delights with quirky, genre-bending offering

Saudi filmmaker delights with quirky, genre-bending offering
  • Mohammed Hammad’s 19-minute short ‘Yallah, Yallah Beenah!’ is now streaming on Netflix as part of ‘New Saudi Voices’ anthology

DHAHRAN: Mohammed Hammad takes you back to the exciting streets of yesteryear Jeddah for an engrossing 19 minutes with “Yallah, Yallah Beena!” now streaming on Netflix.

In the film, a fantastical world unravels when a kind cinephile, whose home is a shrine dedicated to cinema, tells the tale of a gang of pre-teens who were sent on a psychedelic mission to save humanity and escape a spell cast on them by a coven of witches.

You will experience a range of emotions watching “Yallah, Yallah Beenah!” Hammad’s most recent experimental genre mash-up.

In real life, Hammad has a charming swagger, is passionate and listens attentively.

He represents the quintessential millennial who dreamed of building his own universe as a child, and so he did. Sound and music have always played a crucial role in his creative process, so it is no surprise that he has built a 15-year career in the film and television production business — at MTV Arabia and as creative director of MDLBEAST, Saudi Arabia’s pioneering three-day international music festival.

The year 2022 marked the full development of his latest project, which was shown in Jeddah and then Dhahran. As part of the “Amakin” group exhibit last year, artists were asked to create work that wrestled with the simple yet profound question: “What does the notion of place mean to you?”

The initiative was driven by the non-profit 21,39 — named after the geographic coordinates of Jeddah — which has attempted to establish the city as the center of the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene.

In the same way, Hammad has tried to make a mark in Jeddah which he frequented as a child and where he now lives mostly — and where the story in this film unfolds.

When world-renowned expert in Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art Venetia Porter curated the “Amakin” exhibition, she selected Hammad’s film as part of the collection.

Later in 2022, it was shown at the Red Sea International Film Festival. This year, it was screened at the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival in the Netherlands and again at the Saudi Film Festival.

Now streaming on Netflix, a wider audience can now access and enjoy Hammad’s work, as a part of season two of the collection titled “New Saudi Voices.”

Nuha El-Tayeb, director of content acquisitions at Netflix MENA and Turkiye, said: “We’re very excited to amplify the voices of up-and-coming filmmakers in Saudi Arabia through this collection. There’s incredible talent in the Kingdom, and they have unique stories to tell.

“We hope that as people tune into the films, they learn more about these creators, and catch a glimpse of their passion, originality and creativity, as we have.”

Last year, the first “New Saudi Voices” collection was made available on the streaming platform.

At the time, El-Tayeb told Arab News: “There’s incredible talent in Saudi Arabia. The entertainment landscape is rapidly evolving … (the stories) transcend borders and allow viewers to experience the beauty and dynamism of Saudi culture. We believe great stories can come from anywhere and be loved by anyone.”

She added: “The second volume is not just a collection of short films, it is a celebration of untold stories and a testament to the creative prowess of the emerging filmmakers.”

A few of the films in the latest collection were shown at Ithra, otherwise known as the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, where filmmaking has been nurtured and encouraged for years.

Ithra’s resident movie buff, Majed Z. Samman, whose own films were also included in the latest anthology, praised Hammad’s offering: “I loved the cinematography … the style of a Japanese video game. It was a very cool, very well-made film.”

The film was produced by Nouhad Hachicho and Mohammed Jastaniah, with Hammad writing the screenplay.

With a cast that includes Jameel Ayyach and Elias Sultan, “Yallah, Yallah Beenah!” is part documentary, part fantasy but fully Hammad.

He noted that despite the fact that some of the allusions and devices — such as witches and young boys with guns — have been viewed as overused, he did not receive any sort of pushback regarding them.

“I think if we were like five years back, it was definitely an issue (then). Now, times have changed so fast,” he said.

Since the film was originally made for the Saudi Art Council’s 21,39 show, he had more freedom to explore broader themes on his mind — and he was even encouraged to do so.

“It made me think of playing with the duality of constants and changes — especially with all the rapidly changing things that are happening, so I started to look at the Jeddah that I remember as a kid and what still exists from it and what doesn’t,” Hammad told Arab News.

Hammad, 39, has spent much of life between the East and West, so he incorporated cultural references and elements from both in the storytelling.

The name of his film was inspired by a jingle from a fast-food chain, popular in the 1980s and 1990s. He tried to pick symbols which represented the Jeddah of his youth, and that included the iconic colorfully-lit ice-cream truck, which has a cameo in his picture.

While the symbols of innocence, the style and the things that used to be joyful and brought happiness have changed, one thing that Hammad believes will never change, is the joyful attitude of actor Ayyach.

Hammad reckons that even decades from now, Ayyach will be the exact same: “Jameel represents that constant. You can bet your life that Jameel will still be Jameel in another 20 or 30 years — the man will not change; he will still be this same exact person as he’s been for the past over 50-something years.”

Hammad refers to Ayyach as a sort of anchor or guide for everyone as fantastical, wild events swirl around. “No matter what happens in the film, you come back to him and he just reminds you things will be okay,” Hammad added.

In one scene, the “evil kid” goes on a rampage and kills those in sight. Hammad says that he has the blood turn black, which represents, among other things, the Kingdom moving away from “black gold” or oil.

Shot over three days, he received much support from several local Jeddawi brands. It was a very indie effort, he said.

Although it is a quintessentially Jeddah-centric visual collage, the narrative is universal and could be understood no matter where you are from or where you are going.

But the story does not end here.

“I’ve developed it (‘Yallah, Yallah Beenah!’) into a series which I’m writing now — it’s a spinoff,” Hammad revealed.

He is hopeful that the next iteration of the story will evolve and, perhaps, develop its own character.


AlUla’s shannah dates nurture, preserve heritage

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)
Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)
Updated 03 March 2024
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AlUla’s shannah dates nurture, preserve heritage

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)
  • In alignment with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, the Royal Commission for AlUla is supporting tourism development in the governorate

JEDDAH: In AlUla and the wider Arabian Peninsula, an ancient method of storing and preserving dates, known as shannah, stands as testament to people’s commitment to the preservation of their cultural and culinary heritage.

Shannah not only showcases the ingenuity of the past but also plays a significant role in the region’s economic and agricultural landscape.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)

Harvested dates are cleaned, dried, and stuffed into the animal skin, which is then sewn together with palm fronds. The shannah is then left outside to soak up the sun for a period ranging from a few months to five years. The meticulous shannah process ensures the dates’ high quality is maintained throughout.

The demonstration of the shannah process is a highlight of the annual AlUla Dates Festival, providing visitors with firsthand experience of preserving dates in this unique manner.

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$400

Their unique taste and cultural significance make these dates highly sought after, and a single shannah of dates can fetch up to SR1,500 ($400).

In alignment with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, the Royal Commission for AlUla is supporting tourism development in the governorate. This includes the revival of ancient industries such as the shannah, involving the local community in achieving the commission’s goals.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)

Abdulhadi Suqeer, a Saudi expert in the cultivation and preservation of dates and date palms, told Arab News: “Shannah has a rich history dating back approximately 400 years. This ancient method served as a means for the residents of AlUla to ensure food security throughout the year.

“In recent times, recognizing its cultural significance, the Royal Commission for AlUla has taken steps to revive this heritage, introducing the new generation to the ancient ways of preserving dates,” he added.

FASTFACTS

• Harvested dates are cleaned, dried, and stuffed into the animal skin, which is then sewn together with palm fronds.

• Shannah is primarily used to store one specific type of date known as Al-Helwa Al-Hamra.

Shannah is intricately linked to the geography and culture of AlUla.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)

“Crafted from goat or sheep skins, the shannah undergoes a meticulous process of cleaning, tanning, and preparation, using materials like lime to maintain flexibility,” Saqeer explained.

In the past, the people of AlUla stored their harvest in a variety of containers, including Al-Jassah — made from lime or gypsum — and Al-Majlad, which is made from green palm fronds.

However, Saqeer said, “The ‘shannah’ method imparts a unique taste and flavor to the dates, avoiding any unnatural substances. Some even add flavors like mint, orange leaves, or basil to enhance the aromatic experience.”

The 'Shannah' is primarily used to store one specific type of date known as Al-Helwa Al-Hamra, which translates to sweet red dates. (Supplied)

The shannah is primarily used to store one specific type of date known as Al-Helwa Al-Hamra, (sweet red dates), which have a low molasses and sugar content, giving the dates their distinct red color. The natural storage process ensures that shannah dates maintain their original taste, flavor, and fragrant smell, particularly when consumed with natural sheep butter or ghee.

Their unique taste and cultural significance make these dates highly sought after, and a single shannah of dates can fetch up to SR1,500 ($400).

“There are individual efforts by some farmers in AlUla to promote the shannah throughout the year, but we need to have a marketing platform adopted by the commission or any of the entities interested in this type of food,” Suqeer concluded.

 

 

Decoder

What is Shannah?

Shannah is an ancient method of storing and preserving dates in AlUla and elsewhere inthe Arabian Peninsula. Using sheep or goat skin, the meticulous shannah process ensures the quality of dates is maintained throughout, an ingenuity of the past that will be highlighted in the next annual AlUla Dates Festival.


Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels

Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels

Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels
  • Khaled Makshoush’s creativity is sparked by Saudi Arabia’s era of transformation

RIYADH: Saudi artist Khaled Makshoush has mastered pixel designs to reimagine Saudi Arabian scenes in a form of art that is personal, soothing and contemporary.

Indie and retro-style video games use pixel designs to create a colorful and visual design, but with his tablet and stylus the Riyadh-based artist captures a variety of sights, from construction sites with cranes to the iconic streets of the capital and the serene terracotta-coloured desert.

Makshoush told Arab News that he is energized by the transformation of the Kingdom and its complexity: “I’m inspired by the urban landscapes of Riyadh and the industrial scape and the desert scenery of Saudi Arabia in general.”

Saudi artist Khaled Makshoush captures a variety of sights from the Kingdom’s capital, from construction sites with cranes to the iconic streets of the capital and the serene terracotta-coloured desert. (Pixel Art by Khaled Makshoush)

There is a transportive power in his art that emerges from his creative process. He explained: “In my art I explore the atmosphere of place. For example, if a place makes me feel something, I ask myself what is it about that place that makes me feel these emotions and ways. And I create an imaginary place that expresses these feelings.”

Colors are a big subject in Makshoush’s art; he mixes a vibrant palette, resulting in a bold and eye-catching drawing.   

“Usually, I start with just a few colors that indicate the feel or the atmosphere of the painting, and after that I try to find relationships with other colors that add on or complement that feeling.”

Khaled Makshoush, Saudi artist

Makshoush’s art is inspired by the rapid development of Riyadh, showcasing the bustling city life of the Kingdom’s capital. “I try to let my life and my culture come out organically through chasing my personal sense of the world,” he said.

His forays into the city’s urban landscape spark his creative imagination and the scenes and moments he comes across become the subjects of his work: “Walking and driving in Riyadh always gives me inspiration and an idea for my artwork. It’s interesting to see how the city is changing very fast and also still has its own unique feel that I always like to express.

When everything is moving and changing so fast, it’s important to see and understand what people felt like during a specific time.

Khaled Makshoush, Saudi artist

“My first art Riyadh artwork, ‘Early Evening,’ is about seeing the last phase of sunset in the city and my last Riyadh artwork, ‘Cranes,’ is inspired by the huge and tall cranes I see in Riyadh and how they almost glow during nighttime. Very different subject matters but one city and that’s what I like about it.”

Saudi artist Khaled Makshoush captures a variety of sights from the Kingdom’s capital, from construction sites with cranes to the iconic streets of the capital and the serene terracotta-coloured desert. (Pixel Art by Khaled Makshoush)

Makshoush creates new worlds of his own, inspired by existing ones. His artwork does not simply replicate what he sees in Riyadh — he adds layers of his own interpretation to it while capturing its Saudi essence: “Most of these paintings are imaginary. All these Saudi Arabian scenes don’t really exist but it makes me happy that people still find familiarity with them.”

He says that he has received encouraging feedback from the local community: “I’d say it’s always amusing when I draw a scene of Riyadh and get some people telling me they almost recognize the location, but they don’t (know) where exactly.”

According to Makshoush, art is important for society because it teaches us about ourselves: “Especially now when everything is moving and changing so fast, it’s important to see and understand what people felt like during a specific time. What things looked like, what people felt like, what was the mood, how people saw things … art is the best way to answer these questions.”

 


Tabuk visual arts forum highlights Arab creativity

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)
The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)
Updated 02 March 2024
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Tabuk visual arts forum highlights Arab creativity

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)
  • The forum’s primary objective was to highlight the talents of Arab artists, and foster a “dynamic exchange of ideas and skills between international participants and local artists in Tabuk”

RIYADH: The inaugural Tabuk International Forum for Visual Arts, hosted by the Colors of Art club, a division of the national hobby portal, Hawi, presented a diverse array of creative endeavors from 30 artists from across the Arab world.

The two-day event, which ended March 2, showcased more than 100 artworks in genres ranging from realism to abstraction and contemporary expressionism, and attracted participants from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iraq, Oman, and the UAE.

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)

The forum’s primary objective, according to the organizers, was to highlight the talents of Arab artists, and foster a “dynamic exchange of ideas and skills between international participants and local artists in Tabuk.”

Additionally, the forum, which includes workshops and discussions, was intended to “bolster the status of the arts within the GCC and wider Arab region.”

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)

Club president Thanawa Al-Qurani underscored the forum’s emphasis on fostering cross-cultural exchange and praised the engagement among attendees and participants, positioning the event as a pivotal moment in shaping public appreciation for visual arts in Tabuk.

“The exhibition stands as a testament to the evolving artistic landscape, reflecting the burgeoning cultural dynamism in the realm of visual arts,” Al-Qurani said, according to a report from the Saudi Press Agency.

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)

“Featuring a diverse array of works spanning realism, impressionism, and abstraction, it bears witness to the artistic renaissance underway … underscoring the region’s vibrant and cohesive artistic vision,” she added.

Meanwhile, Omani artist Jamal Al-Jassasi, the SPA said, expressed his enthusiasm for the forum’s overarching goal of “promoting and elevating visual arts while nurturing cultural ties” in the Arab world.

 


Who’s Who: Abdulaziz Al-Osaimi, board member of National Customer Experience Academy

Abdulaziz Al-Osaimi
Abdulaziz Al-Osaimi
Updated 02 March 2024
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Who’s Who: Abdulaziz Al-Osaimi, board member of National Customer Experience Academy

Abdulaziz Al-Osaimi

Abdulaziz Al-Osaimi has been a board member of the National Customer Experience Academy since January 2024.

He has been deputy chairman of the board at the Customer Experience Association since May 2021.

Al-Osaimi also founded Right Decision for Customer Experience Consulting in December 2019 and has been a consultant since then.

He has more than 20 years of professional experience in management and business development in the Saudi ‎market.

His core strengths include strategic thinking, planning, identifying and maximizing potential opportunities, and motivating and leading a cross-cultural workforce to consistent levels of growth.  

Previously, Al-Osaimi served in many important positions, including as member of the International Contact Centers Association.

Between May and December of 2021, Al-Osaimi worked at the Ministry of Interior as a customer experience consultant to design customer journeys for services in traffic, civil defense, passports and borders to improve service and to grow non-oil revenues.

He was director of program to enhance communication between citizens and the government at the Ministry of Education from December 2017 to November 2019.

Al-Osaimi has published two books and multiple articles on customer experience, spoken at several conferences, and served as a judge at international customer experience awards‎.

He has over eight years of experience in customer experience consulting, strategy planning, performance measurement, and project management, working with various government entities and private organizations in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Osaimi hold a master’s degree in business information systems from the University of Bedfordshire and several professional certifications, including CXAC, PMP, KPI, and CGPM.

 


Thousands hit streets of historic Jeddah for half-marathon

Thousands hit streets of historic Jeddah for half-marathon
Updated 02 March 2024
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Thousands hit streets of historic Jeddah for half-marathon

Thousands hit streets of historic Jeddah for half-marathon
  • Runners embrace race challenge and enjoy beauty of Al-Balad’s landmarks

JEDDAH: The historic district of Al-Balad was the scene of a remarkable spectacle on Saturday as thousands of runners, both male and female, from Saudi Arabia and other countries took part in the Jeddah half-marathon 2024.

This event, a major highlight in Saudi Arabia’s running calendar, was the first of its kind held through the scenic streets and landmarks of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It showcased the grit, determination and enthusiasm of Jeddah’s runners.

More than 3,000 participants from national and international backgrounds joined the event, competing in the 21 km, 10 km, and 1 km categories across different age groups.

The 21.1 km route began at 6 a.m. in front of Al-Balad’s historical gate, Bab Jadid, taking participants past iconic landmarks such as Nassif House, Al-Matbouli Museum and Al-Juffali Mosque.

Other races included a 10 km run for participants aged 12 and above, attracting enthusiastic runners of all ages, including children and the elderly. Additionally, a 1 km walk was open to participants of all ages, including those with special needs or disabilities, receiving maximum cheers from the crowd.

Runners gathered early in the historical area. Marathon arrangements included facilities such as medical points, hydration stations, food trucks and entertainment programs within the race village.

Enthusiasm was palpable as top runners from more than 15 countries enjoyed the scenic beauty of the city’s sights while competing.

Organized by the Saudi Sports for All Federation and Historic Jeddah Program, the half-marathon aimed to provide a fun and accessible way for amateur athletes and families to experience Al-Balad’s rich culture and history through sports.

Anwar Algoz, from Morocco, clinched the first prize worth SR18,000 ($4,800) in this year’s half-marathon, covering the 21 km category and crossing the finish line in 1 hour and 6 minutes.

Afterwards, Algoz, who recently secured third place in the Riyadh Marathon, told Arab News: “It’s not my first half-marathon in Saudi Arabia. Despite the intense heat today, I pushed myself. Halfway through, I felt I could make a move, and in the end, I increased the pace, securing the win. I’m thrilled to have won this race today following my third-place finish in Riyadh.”

Getting to the starting line was a new challenge for Prince Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal. Speaking to Arab News after finishing the 10 km race, he said: “Actually, it is a great experience in old Jeddah, and what makes it more exciting is seeing all those people involved in this marathon. For me, it is the first experience, and I found it very thrilling and exciting.”

Prince Saud bin Turki Al-Faisal said: “I’ve done it before, and just watching all these enthusiastic amateurs and professional athletes running together is so wonderful. I believe all of them are winners.”

He added: “It was a very interesting experience, and the location itself added an exciting atmosphere to go through these historical monuments located in the historical area.”

Ola Altaib, a medical student, expressed her happiness at participating in this marathon. “Running through the streets of old Jeddah is an incredibly invigorating experience that is unmatched,” she said.

At the end of the race, runners were greeted by cheering crowds, and the most thrilling moment for them was crossing the finish line.

“Tired but super happy,” said one of the oldest runners, Hamid Al-Ahmri, who came all the way from the southern side of the Kingdom after completing the 10 km category. “I am so glad I made it, and it feels great to cross the finish line.”

Hatoon Kadi, a YouTuber, said: “Experiencing the marathon was wonderful. Old, young, male and female runners were there; it was so nice to see them joining the marathon for their own health. I will repeat it again, and it is going to be a yearly habit.”

The event concluded with the distribution of prizes and medals to the winners and participants.