Fantasy genre officially enters Saudi film market with ‘Hwjn’ premiere

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Fantasy-packed blockbuster “Hwjn” is inviting audiences into the mystical world of jinns after it recently possessed cinema screens across Saudi Arabia following its official premiere in Riyadh.

The film is based on the much-beloved fantasy romance novel by Saudi author Ibraheem Abbas and follows the story of a kind-hearted curious jinn (Hwjn) who falls in love with a human, leading him to unravel the history behind his royal lineage.

Director Yasir Al-Yasiri told Arab News about adapting the book: “It was a rather challenging experience because you always have the fanbase of the novel itself with expectations of what they’ll eventually see on-screen.




The Saudi film is based on the much-beloved fantasy romance novel by Saudi author Ibraheem Abbas and follows the story of a kind-hearted curious jinn (Hwjn) who falls in love with a human, leading him to unravel the history behind his royal lineage. (Supplied)

“I had to balance between bringing new elements to the movie that even the hardcore fans of the novel will enjoy as a cinematic experience, yet make the story relatable to new audiences.”

But the director’s fears were soon alleviated. As the credits rolled, the audience erupted into applause, signalling a warm welcome for the thus far un-tackled genre.

FASTFACTS

• The novel, and subsequently the film, builds a relevant world that would otherwise be outside the realms of our understanding.

• It is perhaps the first time Saudi cinema has introduced such a fantasy film, and it places the audience at the center of the mist.  

• The two-hour feature film comes under a partnership launched in 2019 by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Vox Studios and MBC Studios, and stars Baraa Alem and Nour Alkhadra.

• Instead of adding to the mystery of the beings, ‘Hwjn’ imagines a world where jinns are just like us. 

“The fantasy genre itself is a new thing (for Arabic movies). From that perspective, I think the audience will feel that they’re watching a new experience. If ‘Hwjn’ made it as a successful movie, I think it will open doors to similar and different genres,” Al-Yasiri said.




The fantasy-packed blockbuster is inviting audiences into the mystical world of jinns as it possessed cinema screens across Saudi in its official premiere in Riyadh on Jan. 3. (Supplied)

The novel, and subsequently the film, builds a relevant world that would otherwise be outside the realms of our understanding. It is perhaps the first time Saudi cinema has introduced such a fantasy film, and it places the audience at the center of the mist as it tells the story from the perspective of the supernatural beings.

“I tried in the beginning of the movie to destroy the stereotype of how jinns have been tackled before or addressed in our culture … I hope what the novel did in changing perspectives about the Jinn will carry on in the movie itself,” said Al-Yasiri.

The two-hour feature film comes under a partnership launched in 2019 by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Vox Studios and MBC Studios, and stars Baraa Alem and Nour Alkhadra. Instead of adding to the mystery of the beings, “Hwjn” imagines a world where jinns are just like us.




(From left to right) The two-hour feature film stars Nour Alkhadra and Baraa Alem. (Supplied)

“It’s very different than any other approach that we’ve ever faced in Western media and Hollywood films specifically, who are mostly addressing this concept of jinn as horror or scary movies,” Alem told Arab News. “There are a lot of stories to be told from this land.”

The film sets off as a love story, inserting comedy into its fantasy-romance mix. Hwjn slowly falls for his main interest, Sawsan, when her family moves into his home, and he soon finds ways to communicate with her. But their love affair proves to be more dangerous than he expected.

“The role was very interesting because she’s in love with somebody she can’t see,” Alkhadra told Arab News.

Coming from a video game design background, Alkhadra was excited to introduce the world of “Hwjn” to a Saudi audience. But, much like the rest of her peers, not doing the book justice was her worst fear.

“As a writer, you imagine your own world and the fact that he liked the world that we created was an honor,” Alkhadra said. “I’m so happy that Saudi is doing fantasy now. It’s my favorite genre.”

Alem seconded the view: “If there’s one thing that I’m sure this film did, (it) is to show other filmmakers that we can do genres other than dramas and comedies and what we usually do … Let’s take risks.”

Having been screened previously at various festivals such as the Red Sea International Film Festival, the movie is now showing in theaters across Saudi Arabia.

 

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