Saudi director’s latest film to debut in London

Mahmoud Sabbagh
Updated 21 September 2018

Saudi director’s latest film to debut in London

  • In all my work, I take a humorous stab at the contradictory, unequal setups of our society

JEDDAH: Tickets for “Amra and the Second Marriage,” Saudi Director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest feature film, will go on sale in London on Sept. 13.
The film is scheduled to debut on Oct. 13 at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square, and the following day at the Curzon cinema in Soho.
“Amra and the Second Marriage” tells the story of how a middle-aged housewife handles her husband’s decision to pursue a second wife.
“It’s a dark comedy about an average housewife who discovers that her retiring husband is planning to marry a younger second wife,” Sabbagh told Arab News.
“In her attempts to comprehend this new reality, her life begins to unravel as she’s pushed toward a hefty compromise,” he said.
“Unlike my debut feature ‘Barakah Meets Barakah,’ which voiced millennials’ concerns about cosmopolitan Jeddah, this one touches on a heartland mainstream milieu. There’s a hyper-real element to it that serves not to estrange.” Both films were shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.
Born in Jeddah in 1983, Sabbagh grew up heavily influenced by Egyptian films from the 1980s.
In 2011, he attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied documentary filmmaking and production.
After earning his master’s degree, Sabbagh returned to Jeddah, where he released the highly acclaimed 2016 film “Barakah Meets Barakah.”
Shot entirely in Jeddah, the film is a comedic love story that plays on strict Saudi social conventions in a dramatically candid way.
It premiered at the 66th annual Berlin International Film Festival — the first Saudi feature film to do so — and was later selected as the Saudi entry for best foreign-language film at the 89th Academy Awards.
The following year, Sabbagh was appointed to the jury for the best first feature award at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.
“In all my work, I take a humorous stab at the contradictory, unequal setups of our society. There’s a cinematic moral responsibility to every filmmaker,” he said.
“My quest has been to modernize intersubjective realities and distort those unequal power dynamics so change can occur from within. This happens by being able to tell more and more local stories,” he said.
“These stories get their universal appeal because emotional conflicts are universal. You can’t deny that.”
Regarding his inspiration to pursue a career in filmmaking, Sabbagh credits his fellow Saudis.
“The everyday life of a Saudi inspires me. We have rich stories and fascinating milieus. In my latest film, I strived to give its dark comedy a Coen Brothers tone,” he said.
Along with directing and screenwriting, Sabbagh also produces films, and in 2015 he founded Elhoush Productions, the first independent feature film production company based in Jeddah.
Prior to filmmaking he worked as a journalist, which he attributes with shaping his perceptions on sensitive social taboos.
As for what is next, “I’d like to progress my style more. I have bigger desires for more cinematic fulfilment,” Sabbagh said.
“I’m interested as a director in the idea of being able to go further, to do something that hasn’t been done before, to work harder with everyone else to bring the filmmaking experience to a more pleasant and accessible standard.”


What We Are Reading Today: Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

Updated 07 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

  • It said the book “chronicles the wars of the US from the war of 1812 to the Vietnam War

Author Michael Beschloss has spent nearly 10 years in preparing Presidents of War for publication by reviewing diaries and declassified documents, which is quite apparent in the historical sweep and scope of the book. 

This historical narrative begins in 1807 with the assault on the USS Chesapeake and the measures taken by former President Thomas Jefferson to avoid war through the Bush administration and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

“This was a magnificent book that captured, not only history, but the humanity and struggles of our war presidents,” said a review in goodreads.com.

Presidents of War “is an extraordinary work, so extraordinary that it should be required reading for anyone seeking the presidency, vice presidency, a Senate seat, a congressional seat or any Cabinet positions in the US government,” said the review.

It said the book “chronicles the wars of the US from the war of 1812 to the Vietnam War. The author explores the reasons for the wars and often what the leaders did to circumvent Congress to enter the war without congressional approval.”