Filmmaker helps bring heroic true story of Saudi royal to silver screen

In 1919, King Faisal represented his father in an official visit to Britain at the age of 13. Filmmaker Todd Albert Nims, right. (Photo/Supplied, AN photo Huda Bashatah)
Updated 24 January 2019

Filmmaker helps bring heroic true story of Saudi royal to silver screen

  • Arab News catches up with co-producer Todd Albert Nims during Winter Enrichment Program at KAUST

JEDDAH: There are film stars and there are real-life heroes. Combine the two on the silver screen and a blockbuster is in the making.

“Born a King” is the remarkable true story of a 13-year-old Saudi prince dispatched to Britain on a high-stakes diplomatic mission to secure the formation of his country.

Teenager Faisal, who was later to become king of Saudi Arabia, is the young hero sent by his father to lead negotiations in London with the fate of his nation resting on his shoulders. 

Set in 1919, this extraordinary new movie was partly shot in Riyadh, and was co-produced by Saudi-born American filmmaker Todd Albert Nims.

Arab News caught up with Nims during the Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and spoke to him about his role in the production.

Nims said he was inspired to take part in filming the story of King Faisal the child. 

“It is an important story to be told, especially at this young age, a 13-year-old boy going on this diplomatic mission, where the fate of the country hangs in the balance. It is quite unique. 

“I felt this was not just a story that I would enjoy, but one that international audiences and Saudi Arabians would too,” he said.

The film tells how Prince Faisal (played by Abdullah Khaleel) negotiates with some of the pre-eminent figures of the age, including Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill, while forming a friendship with Princess Mary who helps guide him through the corridors of power.

“The main shooting (of the film) started in 2016 and was completed by the end of that year,” said Nims. However, additional filming was required over eight weeks in London and three weeks in Riyadh, and he said “Born a King” was now being prepared for cinema release.

Anticipation of the release has created a major stir on social media, with a one-minute trailer going viral.

Nims said that one of the greatest challenges faced by the film’s producers was finding a cast that looked like the main characters. 

“The majority of the cast playing Saudis are from Saudi Arabia,” he said. “But it took about a year to do the Saudi casting... The film includes hundreds of participants from the Kingdom.

“Trying to find an ‘Abdul Aziz’ was the most difficult because he was 6 feet 4 inches tall with huge hands, so trying to find an actor that is that tall or very tall was almost impossible. Also, finding a Saudi actor for the part, in a country where the film industry is still developing, was really difficult. 

“It was a similar problem casting the young Faisal. To act at the age of 13 is tough already and to find someone who looks the same (was difficult), because they are actual historical figures,” Nims added.

“It was a huge film to bring (together); many people from different nationalities all working together but speaking different languages such as English, Arabic and Spanish. It was a challenge.”

Nims has a production company of his own in Riyadh called Empty Quarter Entertainment and is currently working on a new horror movie in the south of the Kingdom.

He is also behind a film called Joud that tells the story of Saudi Arabia and its culture and will be screened in cinemas throughout the country.


Saudi Hajj Ministry announces insurance for pilgrims

Updated 53 min 18 sec ago

Saudi Hajj Ministry announces insurance for pilgrims

  • Announcement comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan
  • Insurance will cover emergency cases, accidents and repatriation of the remains of pilgrims who die in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has announced insurance for pilgrims coming from outside the kingdom, as part of its Vision 2030 reform plan, according to state media.

Hajj and Umrah Minister, Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten signed an agreement with Tawuniya Chairman Sulaiman Al-Humaid at the Hajj and Umrah Ministry’s headquarters in Makkah on Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the ministry will provide health and other insurance services to pilgrims from the time they arrive in the Kingdom until they leave.

The insurance scheme comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to enhance pilgrims’ experiences, said Minister Benten.

Tawuniya was tapped by the Hajj and Umrah Ministry in consultation with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Health Insurance Council, he added.

The insurance will be linked to the visa as soon as the pilgrim arrives in Saudi Arabia, he said. There will be a hotline, and pilgrims will be served by teams who speak multiple languages.

Ayman Al-Arfaj, general supervisor of the ministry’s media center, said the insurance will cost SR189 per person, which will be paid to the insurance company and will cover 30 days, the total stay of a pilgrim in Saudi Arabia.

He said that insurance will be unified for all pilgrims and will cover emergency cases, accidents and repatriation of the remains of pilgrims who die in Saudi Arabia. A pilgrim automatically gets insurance once the visa is issued.

Pilgrims in need of health assistance can avail themselves of the insurance benefit by presenting their passports at any hospital or clinic under the Saudi Ministry of Health or any private hospital and clinic accredited by the Health Insurance Council, Al-Arfaj said.

Abdulaziz bin Hadsan Al-Bouq, CEO of Tawuniya, which has been awarded the contract for four years, said the Kingdom is developing innovative methods to provide health services and reduce accidents at holy sites.

This project, he added, is supported by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and each insurance covers an amount of SR100,000 ($26,665) per person.

Al-Arfaj noted that since the start of the Umrah season in October, a total of 1,518,649 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom.