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.

 


Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar

Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar
Updated 7 sec ago
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Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar

Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar
  • Party on an official visit to the republic

DAKAR: A delegation from the Saudi-Senegalese Parliamentary Friendship Committee of the Shoura Council, led by  Dr. Ayman bin Saleh Fadel, council member and committee chairman, met Senegal’s Minister of African Integration and Foreign Affairs Yassine Fall at the ministry’s headquarters in Dakar.

The delegation is currently conducting an official visit to the Republic of Senegal and the two parties discussed bilateral relations as well as possible cooperation in multiple sectors to enhance coordination. Other topics were also discussed.


A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 

A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 
Updated 25 May 2024
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A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 

A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 
  • The museum is home to many heritage pieces, including coins, traditional costumes, wood art, and agricultural tools
  • It also includes the owner's artistic works of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, geometric shapes, and tribal symbols painted in vibrant colors 

ASIR: Perched atop the Souda Mountains in the Abha region of Asir province in southern Saudi Arabia is a modest museum created by an Asiri woman called Halima Asiri. 

Passionate about old Saudi heritage, Asiri established the Tahlel Museum in a small traditional house. 

Halima Asiri is a woman who is passionate about old Saudi heritage, which led her to establish the Tahlel Museum. The museum is a small house in the shape of old Saudi buildings. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)

It includes many heritage pieces, including coins, traditional costumes, wood art, and agricultural tools. It also includes her artistic works of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, geometric shapes, and tribal symbols painted in vibrant colors. 

“This is my small museum, where I exhibit the work of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a kind of natural color painting that have been certified by UNESCO as part of the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Each pattern has a name and a symbolic meaning. Men do not practice this art, thus women are the only ones who specialize in it,” Asiri told Arab News. 

Asiri is one of the few women who still uses natural materials to create the art of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri. These colors are extracted from coal, rice, turmeric, pomegranate peel, stones and other sources. 

“I take 24 colors from nature, such as clover, coal, stone, and leaves, grind them into a paste, and use that paste to paint canvases and walls,” she said.

Ancient coffee and teapots, clay cups, copper household utensils, and other artifacts are on display in one of the rooms. 

Tahlel Museum owner Halima Asiri is one of the few women who still uses natural materials to create the art of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri. (AN photos by Rahaf Jambi)

“The handcrafted items found here date back to 400-500 years, and the people of the Asir region used them all,” Asiri said. 

She incorporated a model of the old town in which she formerly resided in the museum. The town has since fallen into ruin. 

“The old roads were difficult, and women had to carry wood, walk, and climb mountains to get to their homes. The model that I constructed depicts the hardship and strength of women in Asir,” she explained. 

The museum also features the traditional attire worn by women in the Asir region. 

“I have items of clothing that Asir women wear on their wedding night. I also have regular clothes, like straw hats,” she added. 

Asiri started collecting antiques that date back centuries when she was young, and she made sure to collect antiques and present them in her museum in a unique way. 

There are numerous kinds of swords, weapons, and clothing that the locals used in battle displayed on the walls. 

The location also features a workshop where guests can learn how to paint Al-Qatt Al-Asiri works, in addition to selling her artwork on commission. 

“I teach Al-Qatt Al-Asiri art as a trainer. I frequently get big groups of people, and not so long ago, I trained a group of foreign women,” she said. 

The museum is also linked to a cafe where she serves traditional Asiri dishes like areekah using natural honey. 

“Many foreigners have visited, including ambassadors and ministers,” she said. 

Asiri greets visitors when entering the museum with a famous Asiri phrase, “a thousand welcomes.”

Owing to its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, the Asir region is highly sought-after by those seeking to explore unspoiled landscapes, wander through charming villages, and explore historic castles. 
 


Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy

Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy
Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy

Saudi crown prince speaks to acting Iranian president in light of tragedy
  • President Ebrahim Raisi and others were killed in helicopter crash 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a telephone call on Friday to Mohammad Mokhber, the acting Iranian president, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The crown prince sent his condolences following the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and others in a helicopter crash earlier this week.

Mokhber expressed his thanks to the crown prince for his kind sentiments.

The two sides also spoke of achievements in bilateral relations between the countries, stressing the importance of continuing to enhance cooperation.

The Iranian president, foreign minister and six others were killed on Sunday when the helicopter in which they were traveling crashed in dense fog in mountainous terrain near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan.


Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza

Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza
Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza

Saudi Arabia welcomes World Court ruling on Gaza
  • Kingdom said it appreciated the ICJ decision, which it called a positive step towards the moral and legal right of the Palestinian people

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed the Kingdom’s welcoming of a decision made Friday by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordering Israel to immediately stop military attacks or any other offensive actions in Rafah, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom said it appreciated the ICJ decision, which it called a positive step towards the moral and legal right of the Palestinian people.

It stressed the importance that international resolutions should involve all Palestinian areas in accordance with the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy.

Saudi Arabia also reiterated its call to the international community to shoulder its responsibilities to stop all forms of aggression against the Palestinian people.


Hatching of red-necked ostrich chicks highlights success of Saudi royal reserve’s breeding program

Hatching of red-necked ostrich chicks highlights success of Saudi royal reserve’s breeding program
Updated 25 May 2024
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Hatching of red-necked ostrich chicks highlights success of Saudi royal reserve’s breeding program

Hatching of red-necked ostrich chicks highlights success of Saudi royal reserve’s breeding program
  • The Imam Turki Royal Nature Reserve launched its ostrich conservation scheme in 2021 to rescue this critically engaged species 
  • Saudi Arabia’s second largest royal reserve is dedicated to providing secure habitats to allow the Kingdom’s wildlife to thrive

RIYADH: In a significant boost for biodiversity in the Kingdom, the Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Royal Nature Reserve Development Authority recently announced the hatching of three endangered red-necked ostrich chicks — a species that had been considered extinct in Saudi Arabia.

At the end of 2021, the royal reserve launched a scheme to reintroduce ostriches to the wild, creating a habitat for a male and a female. The ostriches soon adapted to the reserve and laid their first clutch of 12 eggs in the spring of 2024, three of which hatched naturally.

The royal reserve is dedicated to providing a suitable environment for endangered species to help increase their numbers, restore biodiversity, and provide a safe haven for animals like reem gazelle, Arabian oryx, red-necked ostrich, and others to flourish in the wild.

“The red-necked ostrich, also known as the North African ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus), is currently classified as critically endangered,” Abdulmajeed Aldhaban, executive vice president of operations at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve Development Authority, told Arab News.“This subspecies faces significant threats due to habitat loss, hunting, and egg collection, which have led to a dramatic decline in its population over the past 100 years.”

 The red-necked ostrich is not the only bird species the reserve has sought to revitalize through breeding programs, captive breeding techniques, and habitat restoration to bolster its population. The houbara bustard has been another success story.

 

The royal reserve is dedicated to providing a suitable environment for endangered species to help increase their numbers, restore biodiversity, and provide a safe haven for animals like reem gazelle, Arabian oryx, red-necked ostrich, and others to flourish in the wild. (Supplied)

 

“In March, the Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Royal Nature Reserve Development Authority started construction of a state-of-the-art aviculture center on the reserve,” said Aldhaban.

“This was part of the authority’s comprehensive plan to conserve wildlife in general and, specifically, protect the endangered houbara bustard in its natural habitat.”

Despite its arid climate and vast desert landscape, the Kingdom is home to a wealth of distinctive species, occupying its dunes, mountains, valleys and coastlines. (Shutterstock)

He added: “The center comprises 22 facilities, including administrative buildings, breeding facilities, clinics, and laboratories, spanning an area of 4 sq. km. The first phase of breeding is set to commence by the end of 2024.”

Saudi Arabia’s rich biodiversity has long been overlooked by environmentalists. Despite its arid climate and vast desert landscape, the Kingdom is home to a wealth of distinctive species, occupying its dunes, mountains, valleys and coastlines.

Local conservationists believe they have an obligation to protect these terrestrial and marine habitats and maintain the ecological balance for the benefit of the Kingdom’s wildlife and for generations to come.

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Officials have therefore outlined a set of biodiversity conservation goals under various initiatives like Vision 2030 and the Saudi Green Initiative designed to work in partnership with civil society groups and the private sector.

One focus is the design of protected areas. 

During an interview with Arab News at the Hima forum in Riyadh last April, Mohammed Qurban, the CEO of the National Center for Wildlife in Saudi Arabia, outlined the Kingdom’s aim to protect 30 percent of the Kingdom’s terrestrial and marine areas by 2030.

The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve, where the red-necked ostriches hatched last month, covers an area of more than 91,500 sq km, making it the second largest royal protected area in the Kingdom, home to 138 species of animal and 179 species of plant. (Supplied)

This goal includes the creation of wildlife sanctuaries and restoration programs to restore natural habitats and protect endangered animal species such as the Arabian oryx, red-necked ostrich, gazelle, and Arabian leopard.

The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve, where the red-necked ostriches hatched last month, covers an area of more than 91,500 sq. km, making it the second-largest royal protected area in the Kingdom, home to 138 species of animal and 179 species of plant.

Despite its arid climate and vast desert landscape, the Kingdom is home to a wealth of distinctive species, occupying its dunes, mountains, valleys and coastlines. (SPA)

Situated in the country’s northeast, close to the border with Iraq, the reserve is a popular destination for tourists interested in hiking and bird watching.

In 2018, the royal reserve declared three key objectives, including the conservation of biodiversity, the development of the reserve as a destination for ecotourism, and the aim of generating socio-economic benefits for local communities.

The Natural Reserve Development Authority has registered the reserve in the World Database on Protected Areas. It has also earned global recognition after being nominated for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Green List in 2023.