Egyptian director Abu Bakr Shawky, whose first feature “Yomeddine” had the rare distinction of making the competition cut for Cannes, has completed his followup, the Saudi-set travel movie “Hajjan” which is expected to soon surface on the festival circuit.
Somewhat similarly to “Yomeddine,” which made a splash in 2018, the hotly anticipated “Hajjan” involves a journey across the desert, this time embarked upon by a boy and his camel. The big-budget film, which was shot mostly in the sprawling area situated along Saudi’s Red Sea coast in Tabuk – in the northwest of the kingdom – is about a young boy named Matar who, after the death of his brother on the camel race track, tries to avenge his death. To do so he becomes a camel jockey, only to find himself entangled in a battle for his own freedom.
“At its heart, ‘Hajjan” is an adventure [film] that captures the deep connection between a young rider and his renegade camel,” said Shawky in his director’s statement. Matar and Hofira, his camel, are “an inseparable couple that form a bond based on survival and being on the run.”
The director added that “The themes of identity and freedom are at the center of the story unfolding as Matar, his camel Hofira and his former rival-turned-friend Majd are outcasts, each with their own background, trying to find acceptance and even a life in a better world.”
“Their passion for riding and racing finds its climax in reaching the Great Safwa Race in the finale – the dream of every rider. But despite their love for their camels, the circumstances of life have put them in a position where they cannot enjoy the glory – plagued by the burden their owner Jasser has put on them. Their quest to break free can only be met by winning – and there can only be one winner,” Shawky went on to note in the statement.
“Hajjan” is being shepherded by Egypt’s Mohamed Hefzy as a co-production between Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, known as Ithra, and his Film Clinic shingle. The film mixes a cast of established Saudi actors: Abdulmohsen Al Nemer (“From A to B,” “Route 10”), Ibrahim Al-Hsawi (“Scales,” “Zero Distance”), Alshaimaa Tayeb (“Valley Road”) and Azzam El Nemr, with local newcomers Omar Alatawi and Tuleen Barbood.
The “Hajjan” project germinated from Ithra’s head of performing arts and cinema Majed Z. Samman, who created the concept and has a producer credit. The screenplay is by Egyptian writer Omar Shama (“After the Battle”) and Saudi writer Mufarrij Almajfel.