Fantasy genre officially enters Saudi film market with ‘Hwjn’ premiere

Author of the Saudi fantasy-romance novel ‘Hwjn,’ Ibraheem Abbas, signs posters of the film adaptation at the premiere on Wednesday in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Author of the Saudi fantasy-romance novel ‘Hwjn,’ Ibraheem Abbas, signs posters of the film adaptation at the premiere on Wednesday in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 January 2024
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Fantasy genre officially enters Saudi film market with ‘Hwjn’ premiere

Fantasy genre officially enters Saudi film market with ‘Hwjn’ premiere
  • The love story of a jinn and a human has captured the imaginations of audiences across Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Fantasy-packed blockbuster “Hwjn” is inviting audiences into the mystical world of jinns after it recently possessed cinema screens across Saudi Arabia following its official premiere in Riyadh.

The film is based on the much-beloved fantasy romance novel by Saudi author Ibraheem Abbas and follows the story of a kind-hearted curious jinn (Hwjn) who falls in love with a human, leading him to unravel the history behind his royal lineage.

Director Yasir Al-Yasiri told Arab News about adapting the book: “It was a rather challenging experience because you always have the fanbase of the novel itself with expectations of what they’ll eventually see on-screen.




The Saudi film is based on the much-beloved fantasy romance novel by Saudi author Ibraheem Abbas and follows the story of a kind-hearted curious jinn (Hwjn) who falls in love with a human, leading him to unravel the history behind his royal lineage. (Supplied)

“I had to balance between bringing new elements to the movie that even the hardcore fans of the novel will enjoy as a cinematic experience, yet make the story relatable to new audiences.”

But the director’s fears were soon alleviated. As the credits rolled, the audience erupted into applause, signalling a warm welcome for the thus far un-tackled genre.

FASTFACTS

• The novel, and subsequently the film, builds a relevant world that would otherwise be outside the realms of our understanding.

• It is perhaps the first time Saudi cinema has introduced such a fantasy film, and it places the audience at the center of the mist.  

• The two-hour feature film comes under a partnership launched in 2019 by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Vox Studios and MBC Studios, and stars Baraa Alem and Nour Alkhadra.

• Instead of adding to the mystery of the beings, ‘Hwjn’ imagines a world where jinns are just like us. 

“The fantasy genre itself is a new thing (for Arabic movies). From that perspective, I think the audience will feel that they’re watching a new experience. If ‘Hwjn’ made it as a successful movie, I think it will open doors to similar and different genres,” Al-Yasiri said.




The fantasy-packed blockbuster is inviting audiences into the mystical world of jinns as it possessed cinema screens across Saudi in its official premiere in Riyadh on Jan. 3. (Supplied)

The novel, and subsequently the film, builds a relevant world that would otherwise be outside the realms of our understanding. It is perhaps the first time Saudi cinema has introduced such a fantasy film, and it places the audience at the center of the mist as it tells the story from the perspective of the supernatural beings.

“I tried in the beginning of the movie to destroy the stereotype of how jinns have been tackled before or addressed in our culture … I hope what the novel did in changing perspectives about the Jinn will carry on in the movie itself,” said Al-Yasiri.

The two-hour feature film comes under a partnership launched in 2019 by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Vox Studios and MBC Studios, and stars Baraa Alem and Nour Alkhadra. Instead of adding to the mystery of the beings, “Hwjn” imagines a world where jinns are just like us.




(From left to right) The two-hour feature film stars Nour Alkhadra and Baraa Alem. (Supplied)

“It’s very different than any other approach that we’ve ever faced in Western media and Hollywood films specifically, who are mostly addressing this concept of jinn as horror or scary movies,” Alem told Arab News. “There are a lot of stories to be told from this land.”

The film sets off as a love story, inserting comedy into its fantasy-romance mix. Hwjn slowly falls for his main interest, Sawsan, when her family moves into his home, and he soon finds ways to communicate with her. But their love affair proves to be more dangerous than he expected.

“The role was very interesting because she’s in love with somebody she can’t see,” Alkhadra told Arab News.

Coming from a video game design background, Alkhadra was excited to introduce the world of “Hwjn” to a Saudi audience. But, much like the rest of her peers, not doing the book justice was her worst fear.

“As a writer, you imagine your own world and the fact that he liked the world that we created was an honor,” Alkhadra said. “I’m so happy that Saudi is doing fantasy now. It’s my favorite genre.”

Alem seconded the view: “If there’s one thing that I’m sure this film did, (it) is to show other filmmakers that we can do genres other than dramas and comedies and what we usually do … Let’s take risks.”

Having been screened previously at various festivals such as the Red Sea International Film Festival, the movie is now showing in theaters across Saudi Arabia.

 


Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
Updated 23 May 2024
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Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
  • The procedure is meant to keep the cover, known as kiswa, free from getting soiled and tampered with as pilgrims performing Hajj circumabulate the Kaaba

RIYADH: In keeping with the annual tradition, officials raised the lower part of the kiswa — the elaborately designed black cloth covering the Kaaba — in Makkah on Wednesday ahead of this year's Hajj pilgrimage.

As approved by the General Authority for the Care of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the exposed part was covered with a white cotton fabric, two-and-a-half meters wide and 54 meters long on all four sides, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Carrying out the procedure were 36 specialized technical personnel with the aid of 10 cranes.

As described in the SPA report, the kiswa is lifted in several stages: It starts with unscrewing the bottom of the cover from all sides, separating the corners, then untying the bottom rope and removing it from the fixing rings, after which the cloth is rolled upward. The lanterns are then dismantled and the white cloth are put in place, after which the lanterns are reinstalled over the white cloth until the final stage.

The procedure is repeated every year to protect the kiswa from getting soiled and damaged as pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba.

The annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia is considered the world's largest human gathering, with year 2012 marking the biggest number of participants at 3.16 million.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi authorities allowed only a symbolic observance of Hajj with just a thousand pilgrims. The numbers were gradually raised as the health crisis was placed under control worldwide. Last year, almost 1.84 million pilgrims performed the "once in a lifetime" journey and the figure is expected to go higher this year.

Every year, on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dul Hijjah, the black silk cloth is removed and a new kiswa is draped in its place.


Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced that visit visa holders are not allowed to enter or stay in Makkah during May 23-June 21 as access to the city will be limited to Hajj visa holders.

The ministry stressed that all types of visit visa are not a permit to perform Hajj, adding that violators will be subject to penalties according to Saudi laws and regulations.


Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, conveyed the condolences of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to top Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions.

Prince Mansour bin Muteb bin Abdulaziz, Adviser to King Salman and Minister of State, and Prince Faisal were received by Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs to Iran President Mohammad Jamshidi and Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

Saudi ambassador to Iran Abdullah Al-Enazi attended the reception.


Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
  • Accreditation follows evaluation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve by the international organization Key Biodiversity Areas

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve has been granted accreditation as “the first major biodiversity site in the Kingdom.”

The organization Key Biodiversity Areas confirmed the accreditation, after an evaluation based on international standards, on its website on Wednesday. It said the reserve meets three global standards, including the presence of endangered species, and so qualifies for inclusion. The announcement coincided with International Day for Biological Diversity, which takes place on May 22 each year.

KBA works to monitor and preserve approved sites of great importance as part of its efforts to sustain biological diversity on a global level, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi reserve is managed by the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve Development Authority with the aim of protecting endangered species, developing natural habitats, raising environmental awareness among the public, and reducing natural and human threats to the area. It is considered the largest nature reserve in the Middle East, covering a total area of 130,700 square kilometers.


Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb headed the Kingdom’s delegation at the UN World Tourism Organization’s 50th meeting of the regional committee for the Middle East, on Wednesday in Muscat.

During his speech, the Saudi minister stressed the Kingdom’s openness to cooperate with member states to adopt joint regional tourism projects to attract international visitors to the region. 

Al-Khateeb thanked the Omani Minister of Heritage and Tourism Salem Al-Mahrouqi for the hospitality and extended his appreciation to the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and other officials for their efforts to advance the tourism sector globally.