Saudi film fans have last laugh as ‘Joker’ premieres in Jeddah

Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film at Vox Cinemas in the Red Sea Mall. (Photo courtesy: Vox cinemas KSA)
Updated 06 October 2019

Saudi film fans have last laugh as ‘Joker’ premieres in Jeddah

  • Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film
  • Moviegoers young and old flocked to see the gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, the mysterious Joker, a man disregarded by society

JEDDAH: With a black carpet rolled out for guests, Gotham City came to Jeddah for the highly anticipated movie premiere of “Joker.”
Saudi fans of the comic-book villain buzzed with excitement as they gathered for Tuesday night’s screening of director Todd Phillips’ new film at Vox Cinemas in the Red Sea Mall.
Moviegoers young and old flocked to see the gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, the mysterious Joker, a man disregarded by society.
Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. He wears two masks, the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he is part of the world around him.
Isolated, bullied and dismissed by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker, Batman’s arch enemy.
“Joker,” co-produced by Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger, stars other big-name actors alongside Phoenix including Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz and Frances Conroy.
As fans in Jeddah waited for the movie to start, they got into the spirit of the occasion by taking selfies wearing Joker T-shirts, with one film buff sporting a handmade Joker mask.
They also took it in turns to imitate the infamous Joker’s laugh, and some members of the audience continued to laugh along with him during the movie itself.
The film began by taking viewers to a makeup room where Fleck is seen stretching his mouth with his fingers in a forced smile.
“No one is born evil, just like Arthur Fleck. This movie shows how significant everyone’s stories are in making them who they are. It’s a must watch,” said Fadi Shahid.
Eerie and dark, despite the abundance of so-called jokes, the story and cinematography were depicted as sad, unpredictable and very disturbing, according to one Jeddah cinema enthusiast, Rsha Khan.
“I didn’t expect to like the movie, as my friends and I see Heath Ledger as the one and only Joker, but Phoenix’s acting and portrayal of the character was amazing.”
The story connected the audience to the Joker, developing a love-hate relationship with sides of his character not seen in previous movies.
Despite strong reviews from fans, including raves for Phoenix, the film has been met with skepticism in some quarters. However, the Saudi audience gasped, laughed and applauded as Phoenix blew new life into Batman’s rival.
Khan added: “I would love to watch this Joker against Batman; I feel like that is definitely something I want to see.” 
The film had viewers on the edge of their seats throughout its two-hour duration and Samia Sheikh said: “It was such a bold and dark movie; still it was beautiful. I really liked that they showed the Joker’s real feelings behind his terrifying personality, which was sad to watch. The whole movie was an emotional roller coaster.”
She also praised Phoenix for his performance in the role of Fleck and said she would recommend the movie to anyone.


Saudi youngsters slam ‘cringing’ quality of Ramadan TV shows

Updated 21 May 2020

Saudi youngsters slam ‘cringing’ quality of Ramadan TV shows

  • Call for a better understanding and respect for audiences

JEDDAH: A popular Saudi YouTuber has slammed some of this year’s Ramadan TV shows for being “uncreative” and “cringing” to watch.

Actor Abdul Majeed Al-Kinani told fans he had been turned off by the “sorry state” of a number of TV offerings produced for the holy month of fasting.

In one of the latest episodes of his hit online show, “Luqaimat,” he singled out two Saudi productions for particular criticism.

Describing the poor standard of acting in the Saudi Broadcasting Authority’s “1 Billion” show, Al-Kinani said: “The worst moment that a human can undergo, is when you watch a scene unfold and cringe, when you’ve got nothing to do with it.”

Playing clips showing actors delivering their lines directly to camera, he added: “I feel offended that our official TV channel is being treated this way.”

Calling for a better understanding and respect for Saudi audiences, he said: “I have high hopes in the people at the authority and ministry to take action and follow up on how this work made it onto the screen in its sorry state.”

He also lambasted Ramadan series “Exit 7,” starring “Tash Ma Tash” actor Nasser Al-Qasabi, for being “uncreative and repetitive” in its plot.

Al-Kinani had pledged that 2019 would be the final season of “Luqaimat,” but due to popular demand he agreed to a return. The light entertainment show was launched in 2012 on the YouTube channel SceenTV covering topical issues in the Kingdom and throughout the Gulf region.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • ‘1 Billion’ show and ‘Exit 7’ have been described as ‘repetitive and uncreative.’
  • ‘Ureem,’ a comedy series about a young man who works for a ride-hailing company, received good response.
  • Call for more professional resources and tools such as talent agencies.

Reacting to Al-Kinani’s comments, Nora Al-Rifai, a 28-year-old TV show and movie fanatic, said: “People’s reaction and the trending hashtag (on Twitter) prove how aware the audience has become to the point where you can’t just present them (TV shows) with any content and call it comedy or drama.

“Because of streaming services and movies reopening, people have a lot to compare it to, and if it doesn’t live up to their expectations, then it has to go,” she added.

Dahlia Baeshen, a Saudi scriptwriter, said there was little to compare between international and local production standards. “We are a much younger industry. Some aspects of filming techniques are less visually appealing. The reopening of cinemas in the Kingdom will further change the taste of upcoming audiences.

“On the other hand, I do believe there is a shift regarding the subject matter of TV shows. Some topics in ‘Exit 7’ were bold and daring and would never have been discussed just a few years back. This leap is quite impressive.”

She noted that the Kingdom had numerous emerging talents with youth aspiring to be filmmakers, writers, and actors.

“Talent is crucial, of course, but I think more importantly, creatives need to find a platform to connect. We have a rich history and culture and a plethora of stories to tell. However, I think in order for TV to change, we need to have a better construction and structure within the industry, matching various talents with one another,” Baeshen added.

Professional resources and tools, such as talent agencies representing artists and writer and director guilds, were necessary, she said.

After witnessing the growth in YouTube TV series, she added: “I think we have come a long way, but there is a lot of room to do more. A lot of the content, especially on YouTube, is very male-oriented. I would love to see more content written by females to reveal the other side of the spectrum.”

Afnan Linjawi, a Saudi screenwriter and poet, said: “With access to Hollywood productions, Bollywood films, streaming services like Netflix, and Spanish, British and other productions, if we do the math, the Saudi viewer is 50 years ahead of Saudi productions.

“The Saudi viewer may know what good TV is, but sadly most don’t know what it takes to make good TV.”

She told Arab News that quality television required a stable and robust production industry with unwavering infrastructure and qualified personnel. “A good decade of failures, trials and errors, and successes is mandatory.”

Saudi producer, Jawaher Al-Mary, said TV in the Kingdom deserved a second chance. “With regard to recent works, I think the ideas in them are repetitive, and some go as far as being shameful. That is not due to a specific genre, be it drama or comedy, but the overall content.”

She felt that “Ureem,” a comedy series about a young man who works for a ride-hailing company, was the only Ramadan show worth noting.

Other social media users echoed Al-Kinani’s frustration about this year’s Ramadan TV content.

Ali Al-Saif said: “Those from his generation have witnessed great media exposure and followed countless massive international works that undoubtedly affected their tastes and the public’s as a result. The viewer can now differentiate between great and less-than-mediocre ones.”