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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saudi Film Keif Al Hal

In 2006 on of the producers of the Saudi film Keif Al Hal spoke to film students.
The American University of Sharjah has some of the best film students in the Middle East. They've won awards and traveled to the U.S. to screen their films at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Today in class we watched a CNN story about a film made by producers from Saudi Arabia. The film is called ‘Keif Al-Hal’ (Arab News Link). It's set in Saudi Arabia but won't be seen in cinemas in Saudi because there are no public film screenings there. Note, in Saudi you can attend a public stoning but not a film. Students got into a debate about the film and the CNN coverage. The film shows women driving, which is still forbidden in Saudi. The film also features a very aggressive, fundamentalist, brother character who meddles in his sister’s romantic life. The piece included an interview with the Saudi actress who spoke about her personal decision not to wear a veil or any traditional head covering both on and off screen. I've invited students to comment. ‘Keif Al-Hal’ has already played elsewhere in the gulf and at International festivals.


Blogger Eman said...

I watched 'Keif El Hal' with the class and I was surprised to say the least at the reaction the film received from members of the class. I would've hoped people would be excited! Free speech and all? Hehe, no but seriously, I think a giant leap (not a small step), towards expressing some of the concerns that exist within the Saudi society, has been taken. Film I think communicates morals that you might not otherwise understand or get, if you read a book or if someone said "Here, this is the moral of the story." I expect that this film will communicate that, while respecting the Islamic religion and preserving Saudi heritage.

It's not because they want to pick on Saudi Arabia. It's not even because they want to rebel against the system. It's simply because they love their country and it shows through their passion for their film. You only take such drastic measures and risks when you want to protect something you love or make it even better.

I'm so looking forward to watching Keif El Hal.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Fahd Aljuraid, a Saudi student in the United Arab Emirates who watched the clip from CNN about the "Saudi Feature Film".

I would just like to comment that the movie "keif al hal" is not the first Saudi film ever, 7 Saudi's beat that movie to production with one in particular commenting on the lack of movie theathers in Saudi Arabia. It's an issue that is being tackled by the goverment as we speak as they are hosted their first film festival ever in summer of 2006.

Abdullah Eyaf, a 28-year-old director who runs a popular Web site promoting film culture created a documentary that was in the Emirates Film Festival in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. in the spring of 2006.

His 45-minute documentary "Cinema 500 km" tackles the issue head-on, depicting a Saudi youth who must travel to neighboring Bahrain to sate his appetite for the cinematic experience.

This is the link to it from the Boston Globe.

I like the movie personally as it is striving to point out the problems in our society but I didn't agree with the promotion of it as the movie that Saudi Arabia wouldn't allow to be seen.
The movie once its released on dvd will be sold in stores in Saudi Arabia among other films.

An before the film was released, Saudi Arabia held a film festival in July of 2006. It's not as if Saudi Arabia is not engaging in the film industry but its something that is coming along slowly but surely. The fact of the matter that they painted the Saudi actress in "Keif al Hal" as the first Saudi film actress is incorrect. Haifa Al-Mansour who is also a director, acted in a Saudi movie called Taxi that was apart of the film festival in Saudi and the Emirates film festival.
here are the links to the Saudi film festival.

The point that I'm trying to make is that the cinema in Saudi is facing a thin line of appealing to the masses and conforming to a nation which is the birthplace of Islam. The goverment is rest-assuredly working on resolving this issue an giving its citizens what it wants.

12:07 AM  
Blogger mai said...

Honestly speaking, I don’t see that producing a Saudi movie is something wrong. I believe that every one has the right to express what he/she thinks or feels in any other way. The actors of the movie are bunch of people who wanted to convey some of their ideas and beliefs through this movie. We can't judge them and say that they did something wrong because they showed a woman driving a car or gave an example of an extremist who wants his sister to have an arranged marriage. I agree with Eman when she said, "It's not because they want to pick on Saudi Arabia. It's not even because they want to rebel against the system. It's simply because they love their country and it shows through their passion for their film. You only take such drastic measures and risks when you want to protect something you love or make it even better." Every one does this in his/her own way. These are actors and producing a movie was there way to say "well this is what I think."

Although I didn’t see the movie but I don’t think it doesn't respect Islam or Saudi heritage. It gave an example of a family that can be found in any society and any country. This example of the family doesn’t mean that all Saudi men are extremists or all Saudi women want to live there lives freely. For example, most of the Egyptian movies are about drugs and a bunch of corrupted teenagers and stuff. Does this mean that all Egyptians are like this? Of course not. I think this movie is just a first step. And not because Saudi is the land of Islam this means that we can't have a meaningful film industry that can discuss significant issues from our daily lives.

I'm really looking forward to see the movie

12:20 AM  
Blogger J said...

Habiba said....

There are several problems I noted about this entire thing:
1) Islam is a very moderate Religion that was badly misunderstood.
2) this movie is about a girl who just graduated from College, she wants to get a job but her "Fundamentalist" brother wants to find her a husband or hide her in a house if not one of those then a grave. That’s stupid, I’m sorry to say that, but seriously even the most extreme Muslims won’t find anything to support this argument in either the Holy Qura’an or in the sayings of our Prophet Mohammed (Peach Be Upon Him)
3) The fact that the CNN glorified the movie, in it press release it mentioned the fact that the movie “delicately tackles” the issue of extremism, it didn’t, having a nutcase of a brother who wants to kill of her sister if she doesn’t get married or if she does get a job is not how you “tackle” such a “delicate” matter.
4) having the actress herself say that showing on screen unveiled didn’t break any Islamic rules on an international TV news channel was disastrous, because as a veiled Muslim girl myself I believe that the Holy Qura’an clearly stated that at some point in a girl’s life she has to put it on for modesty purposes, the Veil was never meant to oppress any one, it’s the Muslim girl’s sign of her submission and her love for God, and of course its her way of saying I’m a modest lady, I also believe that what is precious is meant to be hidden like a pearl for example, fishermen go deep in the ocean to find it, and when they do they have to go through its shell to get it, in other words the veiled ladies are precious and are not put up for every one to see.
The last thing I would like to add is many Arab parents make the mistake of making their girls put on the veil by force, but they do that because they don’t understand they follow without using their brains, I was raised to believe that a girl should never put it on if she is not ready for it, because it’s a commitment, it’s an unspoken pledge between the Muslim lady and God that entitles respect, she actress didn’t understand that and in her ignorance she put both “Oppression” and “Veil” in on sentence.

1:30 PM  
Blogger aya said...

I can't really say much about the movie becasue i haven't seen it yet. I dunno whether it represents a distorted image of Muslims or not, so I can't really judge. The amount of publicity this movie gained was not surprising,because lately there have been many trials to show the world what happens in Saudi such as the book Princess.
I really would like to see this movie because I would like to see the strength of the story behind it, regardless of the acting. It is perfectly acceptable to see a group of young people trying to change something they dont like about their country. And they chose film as the medium through which they convey their opinions because they believe in the power of film making and its influence on people. I dont know whether the goals of these actors is to improve the situation in Saudi or to just gain publicity? But I know that the issues discussed in the movie are known to everyone, so what difference will this one movie do?

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Atia said...

The West already has a VERY different (but not neccesarily true) point of view as to how the arab countries or the Middle East lifestyles and cultures are. they only see and believe what is shown in their media whcih is always about wars, suicide bombers etc. so it is up to the arabs themselves to educate them about the real deal.

i think "keif el hal" is a good way of starting. as mentioned this isnt the first saudi film, so therefore it strengthens the saudi film making industry. i havent seen the movie yet but form the previews, it is about a girl who wants to pursue a career but her religious brother wants to arrange her marriage.

the movie shows both sides of the story. that is that arab women, in particular saudi women, want to do something in their lives. they want to make the most of it, pursuing higher education and careers, and not just get married and bear children. it shows that times are changing and they have a mind of their own

at the same time it shows the other side; about the strict culture and religious values. i think the producer has a purpose in showing this and not just because he wants to show people that this is something bad about saudi. maybe the meaning behind it is totally different.

i can't wait for the movie to come out! im sure it has a happy ending!

3:17 PM  
Blogger Talal said...

I think the movie SUCKS! There is a difference between an entertaining movie and an academic article. There is a difference between reflecting reality and dictating an argument into someone's brain. An artist movie maker gives room for people to ANALYZE, THINK and try to FIGURE OUT the message. He should not make the message screamingly obvious! I want to give this message to the writer of "Keif Al Hal": YOU DON'T BELONG IN SHOWBIZ! YOU BELONG IN SESAME STREET!

In action movies there are good guys and bad guys. In social realism movies, there are no good guys and bad guys. In social realisms you have to present the argument of BOTH SIDES. You can't make one side puppies and sunshine, and the other side monsters with sinister evil laughs as the fire flames behind them. Why didn't the writer include the drama of a girl who is forced by her parents to take off her Hijab for instance? That shows that sometimes even the religion-is-personal-between-you-and-your-God type of people can be jerks.

Anyway I don't care about what the message of the movie is, or whether its good or bad. Because everybody seems to fall in that trap. The trap of the sesame-street-mentality of Arab critics. The chicken or the egg discussion of "is this right or wrong?". Nobody has the right to judge on anybody's opinion. But you can sure as hell criticize the lifeforce of how the EXPRESSION of that opinion is. Was the WAY the movie was EXPRESSED brilliant or weak? Was its artistry deep or surface?. Because a critique of that nature, the nature of "is this weak or brilliant and how we can make it better", the discussion of THAT nature is what's gonna make us advance in making better movies.

So stop making this blog a social discussion. Make it a cinematic discussion. We are media students and we should talk about what makes us better writers and directors. We shouldn't talk about what makes us better social activists. This is a media blog. If anybody wants to talk about law, politics or religion, go to "Al Itijah al Mu3akis" and see if anybody will agree to anybody's preachings. Good Luck!

Now that I established that. I want to point out the following weaknesses about "Keif Al 7al".

1) That is not how saudis speak. Its not their accent. A real saudi accent is like an episode of "Tash ma Tash". Or if anyone saw the underground Saudi Anime "Abu Rayish" AKA "Al 7ub Al 7ageegy", THAT is a real saudi accent. The closest people in "Keif al Hal" to a Saudi accent was the grandfather and the Muttawa3s. The rest have the accent of a basmati rice commercial. The freind of Hisham who is supposed to be from Shargiya has a KUWAITI ACCENT! BAD DIALOG EDITING!!!

2) Abu Hish AKA Hisham's performance was a BIG DISAPOINTMENT. What was that about? He had no life in his personality. He was dead. We expected the whole comedy of the movie to be through Hisham. He did not SELL his performance right. The same way the father OVERSELLED his personality too much. The Jealous brother reeeeally overselled his performance. The only two good actors in my view were the Grandfather and the other Muttawa3. The rest were very FAKE. It made me aware that they are TRYING to act. It did not make me live the dimensions of the moment. Okay now I sound like a snob ...

3) There were scenes in the movie that took too much film time which didn't serve a purpose. Like when they arrive to dubai, or that whole coming down from the stairs holding the little girl's hands thing. Get to the point !ITS TOO LONG! Cut it down to 30 seconds man, not 5 minutes with cheesey annoying musical scores!

Every little small directorial decision needs enourmous thought behind it. If you don't put thought behind cinematic expression, your just disrespecting the art of cinema. Concentrating on the bloody "message" too much shouldn't make a director or a writer be sloppy with artistry in directorial decisions and EXPRESSION of the narrative. And that is what exactky happened in "Keif Al 7al". They got too obsessed with the message and they neglected investng thought, realism and creativity in everything else.

Anyway, that is why I think "Keif Al 7al" Sucks BIG TIME.

By the way, the title "Keif Al Hal" is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT TO THE STORY! That shows how much thought was put behind this movie.

Please enlighten me with your replies. And don't give that "At least this is a start" nonsense. We'll never advance if we keep giving excuses to our failiures.

Thank you for tolerating my snobness.

1:46 AM  
Anonymous haz said...

I was expecting this movie to express what Saudi's really wants from thier country, and how saudi look like..the movie in my opinion is really bad, whether in the storyteeling or in the way actors were performing."Keif AL Hal" means literaly ""How are You?" but actually this word is used among young people to express that something is not reasonable or unrelaibale. I think the director wanted to show how Sadui's live in a country that full of hypocrisy. I wish that another Saudi movie could express oursleves much better.

1:21 AM  
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