DUBAI: Saudi filmmaker Dur Jamjoom is entering the film industry with a bang — her graduation film “Kum-Kum” is set to screen at the Red Sea International Film Festival, which runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9.
At just 23, the director already has six short films under her belt, with the 15-minute long “Kum-Kum” joining the pack.
“I feel grateful and blessed that they chose my short film, and it’s just a graduation film,” Jamjoom told Arab News. “I’ve worked so hard on this film and when I heard the news that they’re showcasing it at Red Sea, I was extremely excited and my whole family were excited too.”
“Kum-Kum” is inspired by a true story that happened to Jamjoom in 2012. “It’s about my friend who passed away at the age of 12. I was 12-years-old and it was all new for me to understand the concept of death and life,” she said.
“Because I was a child, people used to call me a robot, because I showed no emotions. whenever I went to funerals, I never understood the idea of people crying because someone passed away,” she recalled.
“When that time came and my friend passed away, it was all new for me. When I got into the funeral, I felt all these kinds of new emotions that started to (rise) up and I experienced new emotions that came into my mind and heart,” she said.
The short film follows 17-year-old Duna, who witnesses the fatal drowning of a young girl called Salwa. Duna is traumatized and struggles with residual feelings of hopelessness and an enduring fear of the water — until she realizes that she must go back to the beach to teach her younger sister how to swim.
“Kum-Kum” examines the philosophical aspects of life and death and “also talks about how someone’s passing can shape someone living,” Jamjoom said.
Jamjoom started working on the movie in 2022 when she took a screenwriting course at Effat University in Jeddah. “I wrote this script, but it was still a work in progress. I put it aside and I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to keep this script on the side forever. I want to work on it later on’,” she said.
“When my graduation project came, I pulled that out from the drawer and said, ‘OK, I’m going to work on this script.”
Her love of filmmaking began at a young age, when her cousin introduced her to TikTok’s precursor, musical.ly.
“I was very introverted. I didn’t know how to express my emotions,” she said. “At the age of 11, my cousin showed me an app that is now TikTok where you record and add music. I was so fascinated, and I started using this app. Every Saturday, I’d gather up all my cousins and I’d start recording them and start making silly videos. It got really serious and we started to think about which song we should choose to match the mood of the song and started doing changing costumes and everything. I was filming and directing them,” she said.
At the end of every week, Jamjoom would present her work to her family.
Jamjoom now works at the Red Sea Film Foundation’s Red Sea Labs, which the filmmaker said “creates multiple programs for feature films, short films, TV series and music. It teaches the new upcoming filmmakers, and the ones who are experienced, how to develop their projects.
“We have a new generation in Saudi Arabia that is coming in with great ideas and some stories that has never been heard before,” she said.
“It’s like a baby growing right now. Saudi Arabia is developing so much, especially with all the new architecture, the new construction and Vision 2030. Everything is happening all at once and cinema is also a part of that development,” she said.