10 May 2022: Film AlUla, the Royal Commission for AlUla’s film agency today announced that pre-production has begun on the Saudi feature film Norah written and directed by Tawfik Alzaidi.
Produced by Black Sugar Pictures and Nebras Films, prep has begun and filming is set to get underway next month with established producers Paul Miller and Sharif Majali onboard. Norah is the debut feature from exciting filmmaker and influential member of the new cinema wave in Saudi Arabia Tawfik Alzaidi. This is the first homegrown feature film to shoot entirely in AlUla, which is the 'first of its kind' for the County.
Norah is set in the 90’s, in Saudi Arabia, when conservatism is at the height of its powers and all forms of art and painting are banned. Norah a young woman living in the village finds out that Nader is an artist. She sets out to have her portrait painted by him and so begins a relationship of artistic discovery between Nader and Norah. As Nader’s artistic inspiration awakens, he introduces Norah to a world of possibilities outside the village.
Director Tawfik Alzaidi explained: “Norah explores our relationship to art and as a means of communication between people, its power to inspire and translate experiences that can bring about change. With the inspiring and creative landscape of AlUa as a backdrop, I’m looking forward to bringing this unique story to life.”
The film’s script was the winner and recipient of a fund award at the Saudi Film Commission’s Daw Film Competition, an initiative launched by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture in September 2019 to support Saudi film production and champion the next generation of filmmakers by establishing a sustainable funding programme to bring Saudi content to the screen and wider global audiences.
Film AlUla, will be supporting and facilitating the project with logistics, crew, locations, casting and local expertise. The casting process to find local talent in AlUla for the film has been key to maintaining the authenticity of the story.
The untouched location of wilderness and natural beauty of AlUla opened its doors to international production in 2020 and has since welcomed a slate of local, regional, and international production.
Stephen Strachan, Film Commissioner at Film AlUla, said: “Following the success of ‘Kandahar’, we’re delighted to welcome the feature film ‘Norah’ to AlUla. This is the first feature film to use our new film
resort with accommodation and offices dedicated for film crew. This is a great opportunity to provide stunning backdrops for such a unique and authentic independent film, boost the young local crew’s experience, showcase new talented voices, develop creativity and support the entire production every step of the way. It’s an extremely exciting time for Saudi film and TV as we invest in infrastructure, cultivate our attractive financial and support offerings to drive confidence in the industry here, and ultimately attract more productions to cement our position on the global map.”
Hollywood feature ‘Kandahar’ directed by Ric Roman Waugh and starring Gerard Butler wrapped in January and enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive shooting experience in both AlUla and Jeddah. The film which recruited 350 crew was made up of 10% Saudi nationals who worked across Production, SFX, Art, Make-up and Hair, and Location departments, and over 350 local people from AlUla were recruited as extras.
Film AlUla’s first phase of studio development is now underway with 2 film stages, support offices, dressing rooms, green rooms, a warehouse, and workshops to meet the demands of local and international production.
The new studio complex will also feature the recently opened film resort designated for professionals and designed for film operations with 300 accommodations, film-friendly office space for short and long-term stays and recreational areas.