Red Sea International Film Festival has set the world premiere of Saudi feature HWJN, directed by Yasir Al Yasiri, as its opening-night gala on November 30.
Adapted from the young adult fantasy novel by Ibraheem Abbas, HWJN combines elements of Arabian folklore with modern themes.
A co-production from leading regional players Image Nation Abu Dhabi, MBC Studios and Vox Studios, HWJN is set in modern-day Jeddah and follows the story of a kind-hearted jinn. As he discovers the truth about his royal lineage, HWJN, played by Baraa Alem, sets off on a journey to reclaim his birthright, while battling ancient evils to maintain the harmonious balance between his world and ours. Along the way, he develops an unexpected romantic connection with Sawsan (Nour Alkhadra), a young medical student.
Antoine Khalife, director of Arab Programmes & Film Classics for the Red Sea International Film Festival, said: “With HWJN, Saudi cinema proves its capacity to bring together talents from across the Arab world at both the production and artistic levels. Through this choice, the Red Sea not only honours Saudi cinema but also all Arab talents, highlighting the remarkable progress that the Kingdom has witnessed in recent times.”
Al Yasiri is an Iraqi filmmaker whose first feature-length film, Shabab Sheyab (2018), had its world premiere at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and was followed by action thriller 122 (2019).
HWJN was co-written by Yasir Al Yasiri, Ibraheem Abbas, Sarah Taibah and Hussam Alhulwah, executive produced by Majid Al Ansari (Zinzana) and Saad Al Albutaily (Cherry), and produced by Yasiri’s production company, Axx productions. The book was published by Yatakhayaloon, which is founded by Yasser Bahjatt and Ibraheem Abbas.
Mohammed Al-Turki, CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation, said: “Opening the festival in its third edition with a Saudi film is a real testament to how far the cinema industry has come in such a short time. As a Saudi filmmaker myself this is a transformative moment. It is both exciting and humbling for us to be the centre of growth for film in the region by providing a platform that is recognized on a global stage. We are thrilled to kick off our upcoming edition with HWJN!”
Al Yasiri said: “The story of HWJN is an epic tale of romance, adventure, and culture that has resonated with millions in Saudi and beyond. Bringing this beloved novel to life as a movie has been an extraordinary journey and a landmark achievement for regional cinema. It’s profoundly meaningful for us to open this year’s Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah – the city where HWJN’s story was born, and which plays a pivotal role in the narrative.”
The Red Sea International Film Festival runs from November 30-December 9.