Clean Bandit to perform live in Jeddah as part of Saudi Grand Prix

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Updated 16 March 2022

Clean Bandit to perform live in Jeddah as part of Saudi Grand Prix

  • The concert will take place on the main stage of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit

JEDDAH: The pop fusion music group Clean Bandit will thrill fans in Jeddah with an evening of hits at the post-race concert on Sunday March 27 to close the second successive Formula One race weekend for the Saudi Grand Prix.

The British band will headline the concert series alongside multi-award-winning DJ and producer, R3HAB, to add to a superstar line-up that will keep fans’ adrenaline flowing long into the Jeddah night after the world’s greatest drivers have crossed the finish line.

The concert will take place on the main stage of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, F1’s newest, longest and fastest street circuit, right after the Grand Prix has concluded.

Clean Bandit, one of the biggest names in pop music, have scored four UK No.1 hits, won a Grammy award, and collaborated with a star-studded list of artists including Lizzo, Sean Paul, Ellie Goulding, Mabel and Demi Lovato.

They recently received two Brit Award nominations for their 2018 smash “Solo” featuring Lovato, which became their fourth UK chart-topper. The band have now notched up nine UK top five singles, more than Bruno Mars or Adele.

On March 26, DJ Axwell will perform after the qualifying session has ended, guaranteeing a world class weekend of live racing action and entertainment for all fans.

The Saudi Motorsport Co., the promoter of the Saudi Grand Prix, confirmed that fans will also be able to see the F2 and Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East support series, while entertainment activities, fan festivals, and live concerts will also take place across the circuit and F1 fan zone all weekend.


Acclaimed Tunisian film now being shown at Saudi cinemas

Updated 26 May 2023

Acclaimed Tunisian film now being shown at Saudi cinemas

  • ‘Gadeha: A Second Life’, which recently won three awards at the Greece International Film Festival, explores various themes, including friendship, family and loss, and hardships endured by working class people trying to achieve manageable lives

RIYADH: “Gadeha: A Second Life,” an acclaimed Tunisian feature film directed by Anis Lassoued, first released in 2021, is now being shown at cinemas in Saudi Arabia.

The film recently received, among several others worldwide, three awards at the Greece International Film Festival — Best Director for a feature film, Best Child Actor for the role of Gadeha, played by Yassine Tormsi, and Best Supporting Child Actor for the role of Oussama, played by Ahmed Zakaria Chiboub.

The story begins when the titular character Gadeha, a 12-year-old boy, is injured in a car accident. After waking up in hospital, he realizes that his life has changed drastically. This is due to a benevolent couple who offered to pay his hospital fees and uplift his destitute family by providing a home and better work and educational opportunities.

Film director Anis Lassoued. (Supplied)

However, soon the mystery of Gadeha’s new life begins to unravel, while he also develops a strong friendship with Oussama, the wealthy couple’s son.

The film takes one on an emotional journey as the boy discovers how his life has been altered at the hands of adults.

The story explores various themes, including friendship, family and loss, delving into the hardships endured by working class people trying to achieve manageable lives. The viewer bears witness to a boy’s developing character as he initially resists, and eventually accepts, the challenges in life that are beyond his control.

Gadeha: A Second Life, tells the story of a how a 12-year-old boy copes with the challenges in life as he recovers from a car injury. (Supplied)

Visually, the film is picturesque, offering captivating scenes of Tunisian beaches and the country’s natural beauty.

Heartbreaking and poignant, “Gadeha: A Second Life” enthralls with its striking beauty and leaves one contemplating its profound message and meaning.

Lassoued is a Tunisian filmmaker, producer and director who has been involved in numerous Tunisian and international projects since 2004. He is widely recognized for his work on notable projects including “Saba Flouss” (2006), “Bent Walad” (2010) and “Majnoun Al-Bahr” (2018). In 2013, he founded, with other filmmakers, a production company named Lumieres Films.


Cannes Film Festival kicks off Tuesday with Saudi-backed ‘Jeanne du Barry’

Updated 16 May 2023

Cannes Film Festival kicks off Tuesday with Saudi-backed ‘Jeanne du Barry’

  • Premiere of the Saudi-backed Louis XV period drama ‘Jeanne du Barry’ with Johnny Depp to get underway
  • This year’s festival promises a Cote d’Azur buffet of spectacle, scandal and cinema

CANNES, France: The Cannes red carpet springs to life again Tuesday as the 76th Cannes Film Festival gets underway with the premiere of the Louis XV period drama “Jeanne du Barry,” with Johnny Depp, which was backed by Saudi Arabia's Red Sea International Film Festival. 

This year’s festival promises a Cote d’Azur buffet of spectacle, scandal and cinema set to be served over the next 12 days. It’s unspooling against the backdrop of labor unrest. Protests that have roiled France in recent months over changes to its pension system are planned to run during the festival, albeit at a distance from the festival’s main hub.
Meanwhile, an ongoing strike by screenwriters in Hollywood could have unpredictable effects on the French Riviera festival.
But with a festival lined with some much-anticipated big-budget films, including James Mangold’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of the Destiny” and Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the party is sure to go on, regardless. Stars set to hit Cannes’ red carpet in the next week and a half include Natalie Portman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Sean Penn, Alicia Vikander, the Weeknd and Scarlett Johansson.
The festivities Tuesday will include an opening ceremony where Michael Douglas is to receive an honorary Palme d’Or. (Later, one will also be dished out to “Indiana Jones” star Harrison Ford). The jury that will decide the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, will also be introduced.
This year, the jury is led by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, a two-time Palme winner who last year won for the social satire “The Triangle of Sadness.” The rest of the jury includes Brie Larson, Paul Dano, French director Julia Ducournau, Argentine filmmaker Damián Szifron, Afghan director Atiq Rahimi, French actor Denis Ménochet, Moroccan filmmaker Maryam Tourzani and a Zambian-Welsh director Rungano Nyoni.
“Jeanne du Barry,” directed by and co-starring the French actor-director Maïwenn, co-stars Depp as Louis XV and will open the festival.

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival provided post-production support for French director Maïwenn’s drama.
Maïwenn stars as the titular 18th-century courtesan Madame du Barry opposite Depp, who plays King Louis XV.
In a previously released statement, the festival said backing Jeanne du Barry was part of its “ongoing mission to support distinctive filmmaking and champion visionary female talent both on and behind the camera from around the world.”



What We Are Watching Today:  ‘The Old School’

Updated 11 May 2023

What We Are Watching Today:  ‘The Old School’

Saudi director and writer Abdullah Al-Khamees welcomed Saudi Film Festival visitors with screenings of his comedy short film “The Old School.”

The 14-minute film had those watching bursting with laughter.

The story is about a Saudi man named Battal facing a major dilemma. After months of not being at work, he returns to find himself in a modern work environment to which he has a difficult time adjusting.

He returns to see an office he barely recognizes and co-workers he has never seen before. English is the primary language of the workplace, which sends him into shock.

Battal tries to adjust by teaching himself English and speaking to his co-workers, but finds himself even more confused than before.

The final straw is when Battal’s boss asks him to present a PowerPoint presentation to his team in English, which results in a hilarious and unexpected ending.

The casting of Saudi content creator and actor Abosllo as Battal makes the movie work. Abosllo embodies the character of Battal in an authentic way and manages to bring him to life.

“The Old School,” as the name suggests, highlights that acceptance to change may not come naturally to some individuals.

Many Saudis who grew up practicing traditional customs have lived the same reality as Battal. This makes the film accurate, while its comedy scenes elevate it to a masterpiece.

Both direction and script are witty and clever, as if the idea and jokes came from a naturally funny individual who has experienced a quite normal life in the Kingdom.

In terms of aesthetics, the cinematography is professional and well crafted. The combination of camera angles, lighting, and deep hues of each shot is visually stunning, allowing watchers to feel immersed in the movie world.


Saudi stars set to revolutionize comedy scene

Updated 08 May 2023

Saudi stars set to revolutionize comedy scene

  • New generation of talent is starting to present different types of movies, Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj says

RIYADH: Saudi actor and comedian Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj has said that a new wave of talent is rising to revolutionize the Kingdom’s comedy scene and become a fixture on the international market.

Speaking at a seminar titled “Sattar: The Trend of Saudi Comedy,” named after the country’s highest-grossing film in history, he told the recent Saudi Film Festival at Ithra: “We just went through a long phase of just the same type of comedy, and I think that’s an error that happened.

“Now with the new generation and new talents, Saudi talents are starting to present more comedy and different types of comedy.”

He followed up his comments in an interview with Arab News, saying he had high hopes for what is to come.

“I was a judge at a comedy competition that was aired on MBC under the Theater and Performing Arts Commission by the Ministry of Culture, and I saw a great amount of talent, it honestly took my breath away,” he said.

“So, I believe that in the next two or three years we will see a revolution of Saudi comedians, both men and women, that will be incredible.”

The Sattar seminar, moderated by Egyptian film critic Andrew Mohsen, also discussed various aspects of the film industry in the Kingdom. Other speakers included Saudi comedian Ibrahim Al-Khairallah and film critic Jay Weissberg.

The seminar also shed light on how Saudi comedy movies will reach the international market.

The audience members mentioned how humor is subjective and could have specific cultural background and context, which might make it difficult for movies like Sattar to be understood in other cultures.


How Saudi Arabia’s filmmakers hit their stride since the resumption of movie screening

Updated 01 May 2023

How Saudi Arabia’s filmmakers hit their stride since the resumption of movie screening

  • Box-office revenues in the Middle East have bounced back thanks in part to the success of Saudi cinema
  • Resumption of movie screening across the Kingdom has kindled great interest in production for the big screen

RIYADH: For 35 years, Saudis were deprived of the quintessential cinema experience — the giddiness of waiting in line to buy a ticket, the rising anticipation as the lights dimmed, and the thrill of watching movie trailers projected on the screen while munching on freshly popped corn kernels.

April 18 marked five years since the resumption of movie screening across the Kingdom for the first time since the 1970s. But the lifting of the ban has been about more than mere entertainment.

The power of Saudi cinema has revolutionized the film economy in the region, institutionalized a creative industry, and set the stage for generations of undiscovered talent, while celebrating the Kingdom’s identity.

A lot has happened since cinemas in the Kingdom reopened in 2018. (Arab News Archive)

Even before the reopening of domestic cinemas, a glimmer of hope came in the form of Haifaa Mansour’s 2012 film “Wadjda,” the first all-Saudi cast feature shot in Saudi Arabia.

Although the handful of screening venues in the Kingdom were highly censored at the time, the film still garnered international success, grossing millions in box office sales globally.

Mahmoud Sabbagh’s “Barakah Meets Barakah” made waves in 2016 with its commentary on conservatism in the guise of comedy, followed by Ayman Tamano’s horror film “Madayen,” and multiple other short and feature film ventures that blazed a trail for a new era of cinema.

Hollywood actor John Travolta attending a special event organized by the Kingdom's General Authority for Entertainment in Riyadh in 2017. (AFP)

When the ban was lifted in 2018, crowds flocked to cinemas to watch the iconic Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther,” transforming the way Saudis experience film to this day. 

Film producer Walaa Bahefzallah recalls attending a screening of “Aquaman,” marking her first visit to a movie theater.

“I got very emotional. I got chills and started tearing up, because I couldn’t help but think ‘Why did it take this long? What for?’” Bahefzallah told Arab News. “Cinema has created societies, changed rules, created heritage. Cinema initiated social and cultural movements.”

Walaa Bahefzallah (right), casting director of Saudi film Champions, alongside the cast at the 2021 Red Sea Film Festival, including Fatima Albanawi (center).  (Supplied)

Bahefzallah graduated from film school in 2010 at the top of her class, but had been working in the industry since 2007 in Egypt. In 2013 she established Rose Panthera, an experimental production company.

In addition to her many works, Bahefzallah has recently lent her talents as the casting director and production executive of the AlUla-shot Hollywood production “Kandahar,” set to premiere on May 6.

“Cinema was a late entry into Saudi society, so (the community) already had a specific taste in entertainment,” she said. “They were first opposed to Saudi-made content and we only found negative judgment, and most turned from viewer to critic. We can’t blame them.

The number of ticket sales in Saudi Arabia amounted to 30,860,956 for films in 22 languages ​​from 38 countries since 2018. (Social Media)

“Lately — after ‘Shams Al-Maaref’ (‘The Book of Sun’), ‘Abtal,’ ‘Sattar’ and ‘Alhamour H. A.’ — they realized there’s a new era of cinema being built and a one that speaks to our minds and our issues, in our own language and sense of humor — a cinema that understands us.”

According to the General Commission for Audiovisual Media, 31 Saudi films have been produced in the five years since the cinema ban was lifted.

These Saudi-made films include the family drama “40 Years and One Night,” the football comedy “Abtal” (“Champions”), the true-to-life “Shihana,” and the animated film “Masameer.”

Long gone are the decades of pay-per-view, stacks of foreign DVDs, improvised movie halls, underground screenings and travels to nearby countries, most notably Bahrain, for a weekend of binge-watching the latest releases.

And, just as cinema footfall and profits are in decline elsewhere in the world, box-office revenues in the Middle East and North Africa region have rapidly bounced back, largely thanks to the success of Saudi cinemas.


Entertainment chains currently operation in Saudi Arabia include VOX Cinema, AMC, Reel Cinemas and Muvi Cinemas.

Muvi Cinemas alone has 205 screens in 21 locations in 10 different cities.

However, it appears there is still an untapped market in the Kingdom. The highest-grossing film in Saudi Arabia to date, “Top Gun: Maverick,” sold an estimated 1.2 million tickets among a population of 35.95 million, which suggests only a fraction of the Saudi public are regularly visiting cinemas.

“With more films being produced and continuous success, there will be a higher demand,” Faris Godus, director and co-writer of “The Book of Sun,” told Arab News.

Muvi Studios is breaking records at the Saudi box office, with more than 1 million tickets sold for its two latest productions. (Supplied)

“Most people who went in to buy the first cinema tickets were considered early adopters, coming in with no expectations to try something new. But now they have precedents to compare films to.”

“The Book of Sun,” a production from The Godus Brothers’ Tape Productions, funded by the Red Sea Film Festival, was one of the first Saudi films to be screened in commercial cinemas. It was recently named the fourth most-attended Saudi film.

“The merit of cinema is the collective experience,” Godus said. “As human beings, we’re impacted by others. When we’re trying something new, it’s good to experience it collectively.

“When we watched ‘The Book of Sun’ in theaters, some people were laughing at lines or getting excited at parts I didn’t know would have that sort of impact. It created a first impression of the film that spread widely through word of mouth. It was great and I believe Saudi films are in need of this stage of engagement.”

Two young Saudi film directors have been presented with trophies after winning the second edition of a 48-hour filmmaking challenge. (AN Photo/Ali Khameq)

Indeed, Saudi filmmakers appreciate how cinema-going creates community bonds that allow them to draw feedback from their audiences. 

“This has allowed for a greater appreciation of Saudi’s diverse culture and storytelling, as well as increased opportunities for Saudi filmmakers to showcase their creativity, expand it, and export our culture, language, idioms, values and jokes to the world,” Saudi actress Summer Shesha told Arab News.

“Having the space that allows us to gather, laugh, cry and feel as one plays a significant role in shaping the way Saudi content is experienced and made.”

Shesha said that she cried when she heard the news that cinemas would reopen. She had taken part in her first feature film role in 2017’s “Exit 5,” but only ever saw it screened at festivals.

“Then experiencing watching my second feature ‘Kayan,’ directed by Hakeem Jomaa, in the theater among my friends, family and the audience is a feeling I will never forget,” she said.

Two young Saudi film directors have been presented with trophies after winning the second edition of a 48-hour filmmaking challenge. (AN Photo/Ali Khameq)

“It was surreal, to see my face on the big screen and hear and see the reaction of my people at the same time. This memory still gives me goosebumps.

“I was grateful to be a part of an industry that did not even exist, and that I believed in what I loved and did it anyway, to witness and contribute to this significant change.”

Saudi actress Ida Alkusay was studying abroad when she heard the news that cinemas were reopening in her home country.

“Ironically, I was studying film to be able to have movies shown on those big screens back home. Hearing that news made me feel like half of the battle was already won,” Alkusay told Arab News.

Prior to 2018, a role in a rising, yet premature, film industry was a pipedream for many aspiring actors. Supported by the Saudi Film Commission, which has worked to legitimize the local film industry and create job opportunities, there has never been a better time to pursue a career in Saudi cinema.

Saudi women study film making at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 7, 2018. (REUTERS)

“Giving opportunities to talents and investing in filmmakers and local movies will pay off because we are here to create our legacy and document it,” Alkusay said. “Saudi Arabia is rich in heroic histories and this legacy should be celebrated and shared.”

The actress has landed multiple opportunities in the industry since returning home, including a role in MBC’s “Rise of the Witches,” the TV mini-series “Akher Riyal” (“Cut Off”), and a leading role in the 2021 horror film “Junoon,” which premiered in cinemas last October.

Brothers Maan B. and Talha B., the film’s producers, told Arab News: “Seeing your debut film being watched is something inspiring. When we studied film in 2013, we never thought this day would come.

“We think greater and bolder films will follow in the next five to ten years because the audience is smarter than you think and they want something both entertaining and thought-provoking, not something shallow they can watch for free in the comfort of their homes. This makes things more challenging for us filmmakers, as we are competing with streaming services and social media content.”

The opening of theaters in the Kingdom has been widely welcomed by the Saudis, who used to flock to Bahrain or Dubai to for entertainment. (Photo Courtesy: Red Sea Film Festival)

While streaming services are considered cinema’s biggest competitors, the re-emergence of movie theaters in Saudi Arabia has reawakened interest in filmmaking for the big screen.

Maan B., who also starred in and co-directed “Junoon,” said: “A lot of people who had that passion wanted to get back into the game.

“A lot of universities are helping with that by providing film or media majors highlighted in their programs, and it’s drawing a lot of attention from the newer generation.

“I envy the new generation. It’s all set up for them and they need to take advantage of it all — the opportunities, the support, the funds — to be recognized and do good work.”

The Saudi Film Festival highlights desert cinema in an interactive artwork inspired by the Tuwaiq mountains. (SPA)

Fahad Alqahtani was on the lookout for a hobby when he stumbled into acting. His first opportunity arose in Shahid’s original TV show “The Fates Hotel,” before later securing the lead role of Hamed in Saudi cinema’s latest release “Alhamour H.A.”

“This film is close (to the hearts) of the Saudi community and I’m very happy about that,” Alqahtani told Arab News.

“The interest in attending cinema screenings in Saudi is on a noticeable high, to the point where it drew in investors in the film industry ... (After 2018) I felt that the cinema scene was a lot more mature and serious, and this will create a world of difference in our outputs.”

The movie is the second-most-viewed Saudi film in theaters after the action comedy “Sattar.” The raging success of “Sattar” was in part due to well-calculated timing.

The Saudi comedy “Sattar” received high praise since its premiere last year, and has recently become the highest grossing Saudi movie with almost 900,000 ticket sales to date. (Supplied)

Ibraheem Alkhairallah, the film’s writer, producer, and co-star, told Arab News: “When we dropped ‘Sattar,’ we knew it was time ... Our whole time on the Internet was training for this big move.”

Telfaz11, which had spent years building its online presence, strategically awaited the establishment of cinemas in smaller districts before releasing what would become the country’s greatest cinema hit yet.

Ibraheem Alkhairallah on the set of Saudi film Sattar, where he portrayed the character of Abdulkhaleq, an undercover officer pretending to be a wrestling coach. (Supplied)

“The closest theater to the southern region isn’t Jeddah anymore; it’s Khamis Mushait, Abha. Hafar Al-Batin is not Dammam or Sharqiyah anymore — it’s themselves,” said Alkhairallah.

Khamis Mushait was one of the top five locations for the most ticket sales for screenings of “Sattar.” However, creatively speaking, Alkhairallah believes the film made a splash because it stayed true to Saudi culture.

“Talk to the audience. Don’t talk to the big festivals and foreigners to reach (success). No — once they see the interest from your own audience, it’ll travel.”