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.” 

Milan’s Istituto Marangoni to open campus Riyadh

Updated 8 sec ago

Milan’s Istituto Marangoni to open campus Riyadh

RIYADH: Milan-based Istituto Marangoni, in collaboration with the Saudi Fashion Commission, will open a Higher Training Institute in Riyadh offering courses specialized in fashion and luxury, with plans to inaugurate the institute in 2025. 

According to a released statement, the institute’s mission in Saudi Arabia is to explore new avenues for local talent development and generate employment opportunities in the relevant industries.

The new institute in Riyadh will offer three-year advanced diplomas available in specific areas such as Fashion Design, Fashion Management, Fashion Product, Fashion Styling & Creative Direction, and also in the management of Fragrances & Cosmetics and Interior Design. (Supplied)

 “We are very excited to do a partnership with Istituto Marangoni. It's one of the leading global educational institutions focused on fashion and design. They have many campuses around the world, but for Saudi Arabia, it's the first time they are opening their campus. And they are also the first educational institution to come into Saudi Arabia as a foreign direct investment, which shows their commitment to the potential in the Saudi market, especially for creatives and businesses, and through this partnership, we'll be able to educate and provide employment to all the local creatives in the industry in Saudi Arabia,” Burak Çakmak, chief executive officer of the Fashion Commission under Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, told Arab News.

The new institute in Riyadh, to be accredited by the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, will offer three-year advanced diplomas available in specific areas such as Fashion Design, Fashion Management, Fashion Product, Fashion Styling & Creative Direction, and also in the management of Fragrances & Cosmetics and Interior Design. Students will be able to choose whether to complete the advanced diploma in Riyadh, with the option of stepping into the fashion industry through a six-month internship during the last year of study, or complete studies for a bachelor’s degree at any international Istituto Marangoni campus.

The institute’s mission in Saudi Arabia is to explore new avenues for local talent development and generate employment opportunities in the relevant industries. (SupplieD)

The institute has campuses in Milan, Florence, Dubai, Paris, London and Miami.

In a released statement, Stefania Valenti, Managing Director of Istituto Marangoni, said: "We created this important partnership with the Saudi Fashion Commission because we believed that there are going to have a very strong agenda that are going to create a fashion, a luxury system in Saudi. They started with a selection of they went under a brand. And we have occasion also to see those brands where they were in there in Milan two years ago.

"Also, it's very important because now in Riyadh there is a calendar for the fashion week and a lot of things that are going on in the right direction. So, we really think that together, as an educational partner, we can really improve from the foundation, the capacity to create this official system. And we want to provide our knowledge and skills to the new generation, because there is a strong appetizer here for the young generation, for the women, that they want to start to study in Saudi, they don't want to study abroad,” she added. 

Romanian Jordanian designer Amina Muaddi teases new collection

Updated 23 April 2024

Romanian Jordanian designer Amina Muaddi teases new collection

DUBAI: Romanian Jordanian designer Amina Muaddi teased her new collection, titled “High Summer,” on social media this week.

The celebrity-loved designer will release her new drop worldwide at 3 p.m. Central European Time on Tuesday.

Muaddi shared a teaser with her 1.3 million followers featuring a model opening a cream-colored clutch, revealing a mirror on the inside of the bag.

In addition to her collection of shoes, Muaddi’s jewelry and bag lines are also gaining acclaim among her celebrity clientele. The shoemaker’s label has garnered a loyal list of famous fans, including Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner and Hailey Bieber Baldwin. 

Muaddi launched her eponymous footwear line in August 2018, about one year after departing from her role as co-founder and creative director of luxury footwear label Oscar Tiye.

The creator also helped design the shoes for Rihanna’s Fenty collection. The collaboration received the Collaborator of the Year award at the 34th edition of the FN Achievement Awards in 2020.

A year later, she landed a spot on Women’s Wear Daily and Footwear News’ 50 Most Powerful Women list.

Her jewelry collection encompasses rings, earrings and bangles.

The rings boast spiral-shaped designs, bombe rings with a crystal centrepieces available in both silver and gold, and a silver band adorned with crystals.

In the earring selection, versatility reigns supreme. Alongside simple rectangle and circular hoops embellished with crystals, she offers intricate multi-ring hoop designs.

The designer’s handbag range includes a variety of styles, from sleek clutches with striking embellishments to bold totes and crossbody bags.

Some of the bags are embellished with sparkling crystals or intricate sequins, while others are made from satin or leather and feature metallic finishes. The color palette includes classic cream, brown, black, red and silver.

Muaddi previously spoke to Footwear News about her rise of one of the most in-demand footwear designers in the industry.

“I was so passionate, so I was willing to go through any hardship,” she told the publication. “There’s a reason why only so many people get to this point, because you get tested a lot.

“Many times, I was close to giving up. I had to part ways with my partner, with producers; I’ve had (orders) cancelled. It’s not about what you go through, it’s how you survive the situation and how you thrive after it. It’s a never-ending lesson,” she added.

REVIEW: ‘Returnal’ — a thoughtful and challenging sci-fi adventure

Updated 23 April 2024

REVIEW: ‘Returnal’ — a thoughtful and challenging sci-fi adventure

LONDON: Right from the start, before you even take control of Selene Vassos, a reconnaissance scout who has crash landed on a prohibited and mysterious planet, you are warned that “Returnal” (available originally for PS5 but now PC too) is “intended to be a challenging experience.” Such difficulty may deter the casual gamer used to a steady progression of character and exploration through a games environment. However, “Returnal” is a thoughtful and rewarding adventure that lays claim to much originality of thought in its set up. The key theme is that when you die, you return! But not to the same environment that you were in before. Instead, each new cycle postures new challenges and progress can only be made by unlocking upgrades that allow you to make more meta progress in Selene’s journey.

Selene herself is a super professional, unfazed character who doesn’t appear too bothered when she comes across a body of her former self that died in this strange world where the laws of physics and time appear not to apply. Staying alive is obviously crucial, particularly as it allows her to retain better weapons for longer. In addition, avoiding damage allows for boosts of agility, vision and more, making for a more lethal Selene. The environment is varied and surprising with each incarnation and the weapons on offer come complete with a range of exciting alternative fire mechanisms such as homing missiles or laser-like items. A hostile environment where even plants are a threat to life is mitigated by your technology, the core of which you can improve despite the reset of deaths, through fancy smart “xeno-tech” that becomes integrated with alien kit left around.

There is a paradox in “Returnal” described by Selene herself that she is trapped in an environment that is “always the same, always changing,” which literally makes no sense. Players have to be patient in the early chapters getting used to the sapping dynamic of death and return. Once that makes more sense, the loneliness of both her alien environment and the impossibility of even dying to escape it make for a pretty special atmosphere that a smart shooting engine then complements.

Simi, Haze Khadra share entrepreneurial insights at Harvard

Updated 22 April 2024

Simi, Haze Khadra share entrepreneurial insights at Harvard

DUBAI: US Palestinian beauty moguls Simi and Haze Khadra took to the stage at the Arab Conference at Harvard in the US to share insights into their business, SimiHaze Beauty.

The twins — who are often spotted alongside the likes of Kylie and Kendall Jenner as well as Canadian musician The Weeknd — spoke at the conference that ran from April 19-21.

“Thank you for having us as speakers at Harvard’s ACH24, discussing our unwavering values in our lives and business which has not only brought us more purpose, but also more success. We also discuss the next frontier of the beauty business as founders (of) @simihazebeauty,” the pair shared on Instagram.


A post shared by Simi & Haze (@simihaze)

The brand is set to be available in the GCC via French multinational retailer Sephora starting from May 2024, with the sisters scheduled to jet to Dubai for a launch event on May 2.

The twins launched their US-born cosmetics brand in 2021 with a range of stick-on makeup designs that can be placed on the face for a bold beauty look achievable within seconds. The sticker book features an array of edgy designs inspired by their favorite DJ looks from the past, such as chrome wings, neon negative space eyeliner and holographic cat-eyes.

SimiHaze Beauty has expanded to include a range of products, including lipsticks, bronzing powders, a lifting mascara and more.

The beauty entrepreneurs and DJs, who grew up between Riyadh, Dubai and London, are known for their contemporary beauty looks and are often spotted in public with futuristic makeup, something they have managed to encapsulate in their brand.


A post shared by Simi & Haze (@simihaze)

Earlier this month, the sisters celebrated their birthday with a call for donations to Gaza.

“Thank you for all the sweet birthday messages. Feeling all the love and radiating it all back to you. All we want for our (birthday) is for you to help us build a NICU for the babies in Rafah,” the sisters posted.


A post shared by Simi & Haze (@simihaze)

“Many premature babies in Gaza are in dire need of help as a result of the ongoing blockade by Israel. Newborns share incubators as supplies run low at the few swamped remaining hospitals that have not been attacked. @heal.palestine is actively working on building a new NICU in Rafah while supporting the only other existing NICU at the Emirati Hospital by providing medication and all the other supplies to help give premature babies the care they need,” the sisters posted on Instagram earlier this week, referring to US-based nonprofit organization Heal Palestine.

The pair have been vocal about the conflict in Gaza, posting frequently on their social media platforms as well as hosting video discussions on YouTube on various aspects of Israeli-Palestinian politics.

Artist Abdullah Al-Saadi represents the UAE at Venice Biennale

Updated 22 April 2024

Artist Abdullah Al-Saadi represents the UAE at Venice Biennale

VENICE: Emirati conceptual artist Abdullah Al-Saadi is representing the UAE at the 60th Venice Biennale, curated this year by Adriano Pedrosa under the theme of “Foreigners Everywhere. Stranieri Ovunque.” The pavilion’s exhibition, which opened on April 20 and runs until Nov. 24, was curated by Tarek Abou El-Fetouh.

Al-Saadi has played a pivotal role in the development of the UAE’s evolving art scene — his multidisciplinary practice includes the mediums of painting, drawing, sculpture, performance and photography, as well as collecting and cataloguing found objects and the creation of new alphabets.

“Since I was a student, four decades ago, art has been an integral part of my daily life,” Al-Saadi said in a statement. “My art is the result of interactions with places, people, ideas, and aesthetics that I encounter every day where I live and in my journeys. I find myself driven to document these experiences visually or in written diaries and contemplations, seeking to transfigure the ordinary with the passage of time.”

“I am representing myself in Venice as an artist foremost and then as a local Emirati artist,” Al-Saadi told Arab News. “This pavilion will showcase my artistic journey over a long period of time since after university through eight works, two of which are new commissions,” he said of the ongoing show titled “Abdullah Al-Saadi: Sites of Memory, Sites of Amnesia.”

One of the artistic journeys he made that will serve as a new artwork took place amid the Arabian landscape.

“I spent seven days in the valley studying the tea, the coffee, and bread,” Al-Saadi explained to Arab News. “Then after one week I rode my bicycle, and I went to the mountains. During that time, I was reading a book on the Silk Road and trying to imagine how it was to travel on the Silk Road and I compared my way of traveling with how it was to travel on the Silk Road long ago.”

“Abdullah’s work is comprised of multiple aspects, from his diaries to sketches, to landscapes, scrolls and other objects that he creates,” Laila Binbrek, Director of the National Pavillion UAE, explained to Arab News. “They all stem from his diary — a diary he has been keeping for the last 40 years. Every day he writes in his diary.”