Cairo, Asharq Al Awsat- In 2006, Saudi cinema was brought to the fore when two feature films, namely ‘Dhilal al Samt’ [Shadow of Silence] and ‘Keif al Haal’ [How are you?] were released, both raising controversy amongst film critics and the public. Today, however, a new feature film, entitled ‘The Forgotten Village’ [Qariyat al Mansiya] that has been released in Egypt, will bring Saudi cinema back into the limelight.
‘The Forgotten Village’ is a horror film based on the novel by Tarik al Dakhiel and directed by Abdullah Abo Talib. It features Mohammed Hashim, Hamed al Ghamdi, Baraa Alaf and Egyptian media figure, Shaymaa al Fadal in addition to other young stars from France, Canada and America.
The plot of the film is based on group of young Arabs who meet some foreign tourists and forced by circumstance to stay in an isolated village, the residents of which believe that it is haunted by spirits and evil beings that appear only at night. The film looks at the phenomena of superstition and mythology amongst the people of the Gulf.
The film crew arrived in Cairo to promote the film before it was released in Egyptian cinemas. Abdullah Abo Talib, the film’s producer, told Asharq Al Awsat that he was happy with the level of cooperation shown by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information towards making the film and hoped that Saudi cinema would establish a place for itself. He indicated that the entire film crew exerted a great deal of effort to produce the film in the way that it had envisaged. ‘The Forgotten Village’ was filmed in Khulais in Saudi Arabia and according to Abo Talib, he relied on the latest film-making technology in producing the movie to ensure high-quality picture and color.
So why produce a horror film? Abo Talib highlighted that he is fully aware that Egyptian cinema is famous for its comedies that are very popular in Egypt and the Arab world. For this reason, Abo Talib wanted to test the waters and try something that not many others [in the region] had tried before him, because he wants commercial success for his film as well as critical acclaim.
‘The Forgotten Village’ has received mixed reactions from many artistic circles in Saudi Arabia and film buffs on one hand, and Saudi society and traditions on the other hand. Many people reject the concept of Saudi cinema whilst others argue that the time has come to establish a strong film industry in the kingdom because it is a refined art and furthermore, the Saudi economy needs diversity and more national economic resources. In the US, the film industry is one of the most important in the country and it is relied upon by the US economy to a large degree.