Four Daw competition winners wrap filming in Saudi Arabia

And as a reward for their hard work, the talented filmmakers spent a week in Venice, attending festival activities and getting used to being in the spotlight. Inshallah.
Four Daw competition winners wrap filming in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Film Commission (SFC) today announced that production has concluded on four feature film projects led by winners of the Daw Film Competition. The films are Within Sand written and directed by Moe Alatawi; Raven’s Song directed by Mohamed Al Salman; Norah written and directed by Tawfik Alzaidi; and Derat Ajdadi directed by Danya Alhamrani which all wrapped filming in August. 

The Daw Film Competition was launched in 2019 by the Saudi Film Commission and it aims to support and empower emerging Saudi film talent, and develop the Kingdom’s burgeoning film industry. One of the yearlong initiatives by the Saudi Film Commission is to bring select young filmmakers to festivals around the world and expose them to the limelight they are bound to become a part of with their upcoming projects. As a personal aside, it was an honor to sit with these talented men and women and share ideas about the future of film writing but also begin to encourage them to use media to their full advantage and create film campaigns that will be remembered. It really proved a meeting of minds inside a Palazzo overlooking Venice's Grand Canal.

Abdullah Al-Eyaf, CEO of the Saudi Film Commission, said: “We launched the Daw Film Competition to discover new local talent and empower creative storytelling, talent development is of strategic significance to our industry and is central to achieving our goals. The competition aims to share authentic Saudi stories and films with the rest of the world, helping us to create a thriving film industry in Saudi Arabia. We are proud of these four filmmakers, and we look forward to creating more quality productions in the future.”

Within Sand (pictured in the header above) marks Moe Alatawi’s directorial debut, and he mentioned that it is a historical drama, inspired by the true story of a 23-year-old tobacco merchant ambushed by thieves in the desert. The robbery leaves him with only a dagger and we assume, many adventures to come. Demonstrating the Kingdom’s local capabilities in film production, the film features an all-Saudi cast with seventy percent of the film crew hailing from Saudi Arabia. Within Sands is scheduled for release later this year, is produced by Reem Alatawi and Riyadh-based Alsarid Films, and is the first homegrown production to shoot in the unique landscapes of NEOM.

It was interesting to hear Alatawi talk about his project and that he chose to tell a man's story, as he felt most adept to do so with his first feature. Although of course women's stories from Saudi are what make the news these days, it shows great integrity by Alatawi to want to stick to his own story, without only aiming to please the Western media and festival programmers.

The next title we had heard quite a bit about as the Film Commission AlUla released a statement when the project began filming there. Norah is written and directed by Tawfik Alzaidi, produced by Black Sugar Pictures and Nebras Films in partnership with established producers Paul Miller and Sharif Majali. Set in Saudi Arabia in the 90’s, the film follows a relationship of artistic discovery between a young woman and a local artist. Tawfik’s directorial debut was shot in AlUla, an area of outstanding natural and cultural significance featuring some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. The all-Saudi cast stars popular talent Yagoub Alfarhan and marks the first film role for 16-year-old Maria Bahrawi (pictured above).

Mohamed Al Salman’s film Raven’s Song is a comedy shot in the capital city of Riyadh and produced by Ahmed Mousa and Telfaz 11. The film follows the main character Nasar, a young man who doesn’t feel supported and encouraged by his father, as he pursues a beautiful mystery girl at the hotel in which he works. After confiding in his charismatic, overbearing and stubborn best friend Abu Sagr, Nasar believes that the best way to win her heart is to sing a poem to her. While the film is not historical, we images that the use of poetry weaves themes of classical Khaliji storytellers into a contemporary narrative.

Mohamed Al Salman on the set of 'Raven Song'

Finally, last but not least, Derat Ajdadi is a poignant documentary, focusing on the journey of living with an intellectual disability, directed by Danya Alhmrani and produced by Dania Nassif. The film was shot in Jeddah and portrays six Saudis with intellectual disabilities, following each through a year in their lives. Their personal journeys are woven with interviews with their families, as they discuss the fears, joys and triumphs of living with a loved one with an intellectual disability. Derat Ajdadi grabs the opportunity to bring the important stories of this underrepresented segment of society into the spotlight.

The Saudi Film Commission is one of the Ministry of Culture 11 sector-specific commissions and it oversees the Kingdom’s evolving film sector, supporting established and aspiring film professionals, and identifying and supporting local Saudi Talent.

As mentioned, currently the Saudi Film Commission (SFC) is at the Venice International Film Festival with a number of local filmmakers, giving them an opportunity to take part in one of the world’s most established festivals, attend screenings and workshops, and connect with industry professionals from around the world.

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