Arab-American series ‘Ya Bint’ in the works by Disney-owned cable network

Time: 03 August, 2020

Dina Shihabi, a Saudi actress, is one of the writers of the show. (File/AFP)
  • The show follows an Arab trio as they struggle with the clash of cultures and the idea that “freedom equals happiness”

DUBAI: Disney-owned US cable network Freeform is launching a new show with an Arab twist that follows three best friends and their new life in Los Angeles.

The show, titled “Ya Bint” which loosely translates to “Hey girl,” centers on Arab-American women Maya, Jumana, and Lara who have moved from their homes in the Middle East to Los Angeles, according to Hollywood Reporter.

It follows the Arab trio as they struggle with the clash of cultures and the idea that “freedom equals happiness.”

Hit series “Empire” executive producers (EP) Danny Strong and Sanaa Hamri will also serve as the show’s EPs, while Dina Shihabi and Rolla Selbak will write it.

Shihabi is a Saudi actress who has appeared in shows such as “Altered Carbon,” “Jack Ryan,” and critically acclaimed comedy “Ramy.” She was the first Middle East-born woman who was accepted into the prestigious acting programs of Julliard and New York University (NYU).

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The future of the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia


Many analysts expect that most countries, including Saudi Arabia, will reopen their skies during this quarter. However it is widely anticipated that traveling for tourism, hospitality and entertainment will not be as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, as precautionary measures and restrictions remain in place in various destinations.
With that in mind, local tourism and entertainment will be an obvious destination for millions of nationals and residents these days and probably until the end of the year. Obviously, until giga and other projects are fully developed and completed, as most of us are in the country this summer celebrating the Eid Al-Adha break and with such hot weather too, there are a limited number of places we can escape to such as the beaches on the Red Sea or Arabian Gulf, and the breathtaking mountainous landscape of Asir.
In addition to the new entertainment centers announced by the Public Investment Fund including Qiddiya Entertainment City, the Red Sea Project, Amaala, AlUla, King Salman Park, Diriyah Gate Development and Riyadh Sport Boulevard, the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN) was created.
SEVEN, which is headed by Bill Ernest, has a mandate to develop theme parks and entertainment centers around the country. Plans include 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across the Kingdom.
Each complex will feature entertainment and leisure choices including waterparks, cinemas, play areas, rides, other attractions and more. The complexes will position the Kingdom in the post COVID-19 era as an entertainment, culture and tourism hub for the region.
As part of its strategic business development activities to support key government initiatives and plans to boost economic drivers such as SEVEN and the $20 billion Tourism Development Fund headed by Qusai Al-Fakhri, BMG Financial Group is undertaking a comprehensive study for the capital structure to create world-class water parks in key cities across the country. The plan is to create water parks which meet the social demands of different family members. The branded product could be franchised by different public or private entities.
Furthermore, this initiative will be structured as a public-private partnership vehicle in association with local contractors and international operators coupled with an exit strategy via public listing. In my opinion, even though COVID-19 has had an unprecedented negative impact on many sectors, including hospitality and entertainment, over the next few years these sectors are expected to regain their market share and will benefit from local demand as well as an international one. I still believe that Saudi Arabia remains one of the game changers in the entertainment and tourism sectors.

Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Saudi filmmakers ‘The Godus Brothers’ premiere debut film


The cast and makers of Shams AlMa’arif during premiere night on Saturday in Riyadh. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

Faris Godus. (AN Photo/Thamer Alfuraiji)

Speaking to Arab News, Alem told of his experience of playing the main character, and how he felt bringing the story to life on screen.

“Faris wrote an incredibly personal story, in more ways than one. You can imagine the character of Husam as an amalgamation of both of us, in a way. Reliving ten years’ worth of past experience, my passion for cinema and filmmaking, and the mischief we used to get up to in school, was an incredibly personal experience,” he said.

He hopes that viewers would leave the film feeling like they can relate to the characters, or that they could consider the characters in the film their friends.

“It’s basically a character film. The story is great, but you can’t help but fall in love with these characters first,” he said.

Baraa Alem. (AN Photo/Thamer Alfuraiji)

Though the “movie-within-a-movie” premise is hardly a new one, the film offers a refreshing twist on an old trope. The film is a glorious, nostalgic romp through Jeddah in 2010, during the golden age of the Saudi YouTube movement. Peppered with references to Saudi pop culture and offering an interesting take on the history of Saudi cinema and television.

The film also features moments that are poignant, emotionally taxing, and familiar to any Saudis who dreamt of working in the creative industry ten years ago. It also highlights the often-vicious comments that are the bread-and-butter of Saudi YouTubers, in one of the film’s most emotional sequences.

The laughs are almost non-stop, even interspersed with surprising moments of tenderness and wisdom. The film perfectly encapsulates the complex feelings of an entire generation of Saudi youth, who struggled before the current era to imagine a future when creative professions could ever be taken seriously.

Shams AlMa’arif showcases the trials and tribulations of becoming a filmmaker in Saudi Arabia in an age where actors and directors needed to be creative in order to see their visions achieved, battling a lack of resources, support from society, and access to locations for filming.

Shams AlMa’arif is now available to watch in MUVI cinemas across Saudi Arabia and will be available in all cinemas by July 31st.

This article was first published in Arab News

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