Saudi director Khalid Fahad discusses his Netflix hit ‘From the Ashes’ 

Khalid Fahad is a Saudi filmmaker. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 February 2024

Saudi director Khalid Fahad discusses his Netflix hit ‘From the Ashes’ 

  • ‘It’s a great time to be a Saudi filmmaker,’ said Khalid Fahad


DUBAI: When Saudi filmmaker Khalid Fahad received the script for his latest project — the Netflix movie “From the Ashes” — it didn’t take him long to sign up. 

“I got attached to the characters, I got attached to the ‘villains,’ I got attached to the idea that we, as a society, make a villain, then we judge him or her for their badness,” Fahad tells Arab News. “I related to the idea that parental pressure can make someone make a mistake. And I wanted to tell people that what happens in a school can be because of what we do in our homes. The school is responsible for educating children, but kids learn a lot from each other, and kids can be aggressive or very kind depending on their parents’ guidance.” 

The film garnered attention ahead of its January release in part because of the real-life events that inspired it. It is set on the campus of an all-girls’ school in Saudi Arabia in which a fire breaks out, resulting in several deaths — echoing the 2002 fire at a school for girls in Makkah that left 15 students dead and many more injured. 


However, Fahad is quick to stress that “From the Ashes” is not a retelling of that incident.  

“The writers went with their own — different — story,” he says. “The film’s not really about the fire; it’s about the relationship between the schoolgirls and the teachers and the parents. Some of the girls get bullied, and if we don’t address bullying in schools, then bad things can happen. That’s the real message that we wanted to deliver. These incidents — bullying, or arson, or vandalism — we wanted to show that they happen because of relationships between people and to look at why they’re doing this to each other. What’s the real reason for harming other people?” 

There are several such reasons raised in the film — from parental pressure to outperform one’s peers to institutionalized tendencies to label kids as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ without really trying to understand their circumstances or the underlying causes of their behavior. 

Fahad on the set of 'From the Ashes.' (Supplied)

For a film dealing with such nuanced topics, and so many strong emotions, Fahad knew the casting, particularly for the students, would be crucial. 

“For the teachers, it wasn’t hard because we have some expert actresses,” he says. “But for the students, it was very hard to find new people who fit these roles. It took five or six days of auditioning to find the right people.”  

When they did find them, Fahad’s experience of working with young actors (as he did in his debut feature, last year’s fantasy adventure “Valley Road”) came to the fore.  

Saudi actress Shaima Al Tayeb in 'From the Ashes.' (Supplied)

“My previous project taught me a lot about how to work with kids, which was very hard for me at first. It taught me what they need from me: I need to be their best friend, to tell them what I need and they’ll do their best to give that to me, in terms of emotion. All of them were very talented and I think this film will open the door for them to enter the industry.” 

The Kingdom’s still-nascent movie industry can only benefit from the younger generation picking up valuable experience on well-funded projects such as “From the Ashes,” which — despite the rapid growth — are still relatively thin on the ground.  

“Our industry is still young,” Fahad says. “It’s hard enough just making one film. In terms of capacity, I think it’s very hard to do, like, 10 movies in one year in Saudi Arabia.” 

Despite that, Fahad is only optimistic about the near future. 


A post shared by Khalid Fahad (@khalidf11)

“It’s a great time to be a Saudi filmmaker,” he says. “Everything is open, everything is new. And it’s OK to make mistakes. If you go into the industry in any other country — say, Egypt or Bollywood — there’s no way you can make mistakes, because there’s history there. But for us, mistakes are OK; we’ve just started and we want to learn from our mistakes.  

“But we also have to respect those companies that want to invest in our country and tell our stories,” he adds. “So there’s a balance necessary — we have to take those projects very seriously and deal with them respectfully and professionally.” 

That was clearly the case with “From the Ashes,” and Netflix has been well rewarded for its faith in the film. It made the list of the Top 10 non-English movies on Netflix in 37 countries, accumulating more than 7 million views in a little over a fortnight. 

“I’ve had comments from Mexico, from Spain, talking about bullies and how girls get into fights in schools — it’s similar to their schools,” says Fahad. “And this tells me that we’ve so much in common with other societies. It’s relatable for other people, which is very good. The message that we wanted to deliver is delivered.” 

Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi first regional ambassador for fragrance line

Updated 21 May 2024

Jean Paul Gaultier names Ameni Esseibi first regional ambassador for fragrance line

DUBAI: French luxury brand Jean Paul Gaultier has announced that Tunisian model Ameni Esseibi has been appointed as the first-ever regional ambassador for its fragrance line.

Esseibi, considered the first plus-size model in the Middle East, showcased the brand’s iconic Scandal perfume in the campaign images, donning a variety of ensembles.

Among them was a form-fitting blue dress adorned with pink floral designs. In another shot, she wore a jumpsuit in the same hue, featuring vibrant geometric prints in yellow, orange, purple and pink.

She also rocked a black gown, and a sheer beige and gold top layered elegantly over a simple black base.

Esseibi showcased the brand’s iconic Scandal perfume in the campaign images. (Supplied)

“Jean Paul Gaultier is more than just a brand to me,” Esseibi said in a statement. “It feels like family. Its identity embodies everything I stand for: Rebellion, strength, boldness, fearlessness, sensuality, and a touch of scandal.” 

“Growing up, Jean Paul Gaultier was my mother’s favorite fragrance, making it a cherished part of my life. I am deeply honored to make history as their first Arab ambassador in the region, and this brand will continue to be an enduring part of my career,” she added.

Esseibi made her international debut in September 2022 by walking for French label Victor Weinsanto at Paris Fashion Week.  

She then went on to work with a number of esteemed brands, including H&M, and has featured in the pages of multiple publications. 

In 2022, the Arab Fashion Council, a non-profit organization representing the fashion industry in the Middle East and North Africa, named the Dubai-based model as its ambassador.

Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice' red carpet at Cannes

Updated 21 May 2024

Rami Kadi, Zuhair Murad designs shine on ‘The Apprentice' red carpet at Cannes

DUBAI: Lebanese designers Rami Kadi and Zuhair Murad put on a show on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival — their creations were worn by two Brazilian models during the highly anticipated premiere of “The Apprentice,” directed by Ali Abbasi.

Fashion influencer Maria Braz showcased a custom-made kaftan-style gown by Rami Kadi, cinched at the waist and adorned with sequins and feathers.


A post shared by MARIA BRAZ (@mariabbraz)

“Like an angel for Cannes Film Festival,” the blogger wrote on Instagram.

She accessorized her look with a diamond necklace and matching earrings from the Italian label Damiani.

On the same red carpet, Brazilian fashion model Thayna Soares wore a draped silk dress featuring an embroidered high-neck bodice and a thigh-high slit from Zuhair Murad’s Spring 2024 collection.


A post shared by MARIA BRAZ (@mariabbraz)

While Donald Trump’s hush money trial entered its sixth week in New York, an origin story for the Republican presidential candidate premiered at the festival on Monday, unveiling a scathing portrait of the former president in the 1980s.

“The Apprentice” stars Sebastian Stan as Trump. The central relationship of the movie is between Trump and Roy Cohn (Jeremy Strong), the defense attorney who was chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s Senate investigations.

Cohn is depicted as a longtime mentor to Trump, coaching him in the ruthlessness of New York City politics and business. Early on, Cohn aided the Trump Organization when it was being sued by the federal government for racial discrimination in housing.

“The Apprentice,” which is labeled as inspired by true events, portrays Trump’s dealings with Cohn as a Faustian bargain that guided his rise as a businessman and, later, as a politician. Stan’s Trump is initially a more naive real-estate striver, soon transformed by Cohn’s education, The Associated Press reported.

According to AP, “The Apprentice” a potentially explosive big-screen drama in the midst of the US presidential election. The film is for sale in Cannes, so it does not yet have a release date.

‘Material Woman’ exhibition in London creates synergy of Arab women’s fashion and art

Updated 21 May 2024

‘Material Woman’ exhibition in London creates synergy of Arab women’s fashion and art

  • Curation tells a “story about how women use their hands to craft their destinies,” Shoucair says

LONDON: The worlds of fashion and art from Arab female creatives converged this week at the “Material Woman” exhibition in London.

The exhibition, held from May 17 to May 19 at Soho Revue, is the brainchild of the art collective Hayaty Diaries, in collaboration with the fashion platform and pop-up series 3eib.

"The Warmth of My Bed" (2023) and "Thulathia" (2024) by Lebanese artist Yasmina Hilal. (Supplied)

Featuring an eclectic mix of sculptural art, mixed media, projection installations, fashion and jewelry, the exhibition explored craftsmanship and materiality.

“Each element came together to tell a cohesive and beautiful story about how women use their hands to craft their destinies and honor their heritages through both creative worlds of art and fashion,” Lebanese curator and Hayaty Diaries co-founder, Christina Shoucair, told Arab News. 

The curatorial process began with the pairing of artists and designers, creating a harmony between the works. 

"Communion" (2023) and "Wound" (2023) by Bahraini artist Zayn Qahtani

Bahraini artist Zayn Qahtani’s shrine-like objects, featuring delicate ethereal drawings on date paper, explore themes of venerative mourning. These are paired alongside a series of rustic sculptures and draped garments by Egyptian designer Nadine Mos.

Lebanese artist Yasmina Hilal’s photo sculptures, which incorporate her distinctivve metalwork and soldering technique, are complemented by a curated display of contemporary silver and gold accessories by Celine Dagher, a Lebanese jewelry designer.

Meanwhile, Egyptian artist Hanya Elghamry examines the process of remembering by graphically recreating various details and narratives in her installation “Abandoned Projection.” Set as a backdrop against her floating “Tampered Redux” series, along with Moroccan designer Hanan Sharifa’s mesh and delicate dresses, the space offers visitors an immersive experience.

Garments designed by Nadine Mos on display at "Material Woman" in London. (Jules Foad)

“Christina and Kinzy presented the vision for The Material Woman and I loved the idea of blending the worlds of fashion and art together and utilizing the theme of materiality as a vehicle of creative empowerment and liberation,” 3eib founder, Dania Arafeh, told Arab News. 

Hayaty Diaries, which focuses on celebrating the artwork of Arab women, marked its debut last December with its inaugural exhibition, “Through Their Eyes: Perspectives Unveiled,” in the British capital. 

“Our Hayaty Diaries journey has been incredible. We’ve had the privilege of meeting many creatives from the region and have felt the warmth and support of the community. We are immensely grateful for all the encouragement we have received along the way,” Egyptian-Saudi curator and Hayaty Diaries cofounder Kinzy Diab told Arab News.

The London-based collective is now preparing for its exhibition “Levitate,” which will run from June 6 to June 16 and center around themes of fantasy and imagination.

Ithra celebrates Saudi Arabia’s ‘creative voices’ at Cannes Film Festival

According to film director Hamza Jamjoom, the present opportunities for Saudi directors have greatly improved.
Updated 21 May 2024

Ithra celebrates Saudi Arabia’s ‘creative voices’ at Cannes Film Festival

  • Panel discussion was held within the Saudi pavilion of the Film Commission, with attendees from the global cinematic industry
  • Panelists discussed the 15 projects that won support from the Ithra Film Production Program

RIYADH: Ithra organized a panel discussion entitled “Creative Voices” to shed light on young Saudi cinematic talents on the sidelines of the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

It was held within the Saudi pavilion of the Film Commission, with attendees from the global cinematic industry.

The panelists discussed the 15 projects that won support from the Ithra Film Production Program, including 11 short films and four feature-length films.

According to film director Hamza Jamjoom, the present opportunities for Saudi directors have greatly improved compared to previous years, allowing them to showcase local stories through cinematic works that reflect the Saudi culture internationally. 

Raneem Al-Muhandis, the director who debuted her film “Swing” in 2022 with support from Ithra, said Saudi Arabia boasts a rich pool of narratives ripe for cinematic exploration with worldwide appeal.   

Ithra cinema coordinator Mansour Al-Badran said that this program has taken local filmmaking to a new level.

“We produced the film ‘Hajjan’ within IFPP which has so far won nine awards in local and regional film festivals and was chosen to be the opening or closing film in prestigious festivals,” he said.

Al-Badran added that “Hajjan” is a prime example of the cinematic projects Ithra is working on.

He highlighted that Ithra is interested in stories that draw inspiration from the rich Saudi culture and aims to raise the standards of filmmaking in the local community through workshops and seminars.

Additionally, he highlighted Ithra’s collaboration with the Cinema Society to host the Saudi Film Festival, which is as a major platform for showcasing up-and-coming talents in the film industry. 

The Ithra event at the Saudi pavilion featured a luncheon bringing together representatives of organizations that support filmmakers in Saudi Arabia. The aim was to strengthen relationships and promote the exchange of cinematic experiences between industry professionals and enthusiasts. 

Dubai Fashion Week announces Spring/Summer 2025 edition dates

Updated 21 May 2024

Dubai Fashion Week announces Spring/Summer 2025 edition dates

DUBAI: Dubai Fashion Week (DFW) has announced its Spring/Summer 2025 dates, with international labels set to hit the runway from Sept. 1-5, 2024.

 “By positioning it ahead of the fashion weeks of New York, London, Milan and Paris, DFW provides an opportunity for participating designers to set the season’s trends and capture the attention of buyers,” organizing bodies the Arab Fashion council and Dubai Design District said in a released statement.  



Previous iterations of DFW saw New York-based label Carolina Herrera as the guest of honor last October with a presentation by the brand’s Creative Director Wes Gordon; supermodel Naomi Campbell closing the October edition by walking for Rizman Ruzaini; and Moroccan designer Maison Sara Chraibi making her DFW debut in February after presenting her collection at Paris Haute Couture Week.