The Saudi Film Commission (SFC) has announced that four feature film project that are winners of its Daw Film Competition to discover new local talent and champion the next generation of filmmakers have finished principal photography.
These works, which are likely to surface on the festival circuit, are a tangible sign that Saudi Arabia’s nascent local industry is fostering local films with potential to travel as well as to play for local audiences.
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The films are:
“Within Sand,” a first work by Moe Alatawi inspired by the true story of a 23-year-old tobacco merchant ambushed by thieves in the desert who leave him to fend for himself with only a dagger. The film, produced by Reem Alatawi and Riyadh-based Alsarid Films, features an all-Saudi cast, while 70% of its film crew hails from Saudi Arabia. This is the first homegrown production to shoot in the unique landscapes of NEOM, the futuristic megacity in-the-making where the $100 million U.S./Saudi actioner “Desert Warrior” was shot. NEOM is situated along the kingdom’s Red Sea coast in Tabuk, in the northwest of the kingdom.
“Norah”(pictured) written and directed by Tawfik Alzaidi. Set in 1990s Saudi Arabia, when conservatism was at its height and all forms of art and painting were banned for religion-related reasons, “Norah” features rising Saudi star Yagoub Alfarhan (“Rashash”) playing an artist named Nader who has given up painting and moved to a remote village to be a schoolteacher. There he intersects with the film’s titular “Norah,” an illiterate orphaned young woman, played by newcomer Maria Bahrawiu, who is facing an arranged marriage in which she will be trapped and has a need for self expression. She records her thoughts and memories into an old cassette recorder. This encounter unleashes the protagonist’s passion for art and, by extension, for a better life away from the village. Pic is produced by Black Sugar Pictures and Nebras Films in partnership with producers Paul Miller and Sharif Majali. Tawfik’s directorial debut was shot in AlUla, the sprawling area of Saudi desert and giant boulders that boasts an ancient city.
“Raven Song” a comedy directed by Mohamed Alsalman, shot in the capital city of Riyadh and produced by Ahmed Mousa and Telfaz 11. The film follows the main character Nasar, who doesn’t feel supported and encouraged by his father, and his infatuation with a beautiful mystery girl at the hotel in which he works. Confiding in his charismatic, overbearing and stubborn best friend Abu Sagr, he convinces Nasar the best way to win her heart is to sing a poem to her.
“Derat Ajdadi” a documentary about the journey of living with an intellectual disability, directed by Danya Alhmrani and produced by Dania Nassif. Shot in Jeddah, the film portrays six Saudis with intellectual disabilities and follows them for a year in their lives, weaving in interviews with their families.
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