“Antara,” the upcoming epic historical drama directed by Simon West (“Con-Air,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “The General’s Daughter,” “The Expendables 2,” “The Mechanic” and “When a Stranger Calls”) will be set against the backdrop of NEOM’s dramatic landscapes in northwest Saudi Arabia.
Based on a true story, the film tells of Antara ibn Shaddad, the imprisoned warrior who was propelled to stardom in the sixth century. Not only did he win his freedom, but he also became the greatest knight and the most celebrated poet in Arabian history. The film is co-produced by writer and producer Alexander Amartei. Also a co-producer is Celtic Arabia’s Stuart Sutherland (“Killing Eve,” “Born A King,” “The Man Who Fell To Earth”), who recently co-produced “Kandahar,” starring Gerard Butler, in the Kingdom.
Production in NEOM is scheduled for 12 weeks to commence in early 2024. The film will tap into NEOM’s competitive 40% cash rebate for feature films, TV dramas, reality shows, documentaries and commercials, which will facilitate the production with world-class sound stages, support facilities, talent and crews.
The film will be based at NEOM’s Bajdah Studios, a location that not only provides filmmakers with the ability to capture the breathtaking landscapes of NEOM, it also boasts cutting-edge sound stages for production. Additionally, the film will take advantage of the 468-kilometer stretch of unspoiled Red Sea coastline, a prominent geographical feature of NEOM.
Simon West said: “Bringing the story of Antara ibn Shaddad to the big screen and the masses is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to continue his legend. The life of Antara is one of those relatively little-known true stories that prove that fact can be so much stranger than fiction. The opportunity to film in the homeland of the Banu Abs tribe means we will keep true to the piece whilst helping to grow the emerging film industry in the region. It’s a project I’m thrilled to be involved with and I am looking forward to creating something unique for a global audience.”
Wayne Borg, Managing Director of Media Industries, Entertainment, and Culture at NEOM, said: “Our support of international productions, such as Antara, highlights the growing confidence film producers have in NEOM and reinforces our position as the gateway to the MENA region for the media industries. They also boost our ecosystem’s development by providing unparalleled work experience opportunities for young Saudis and fast-track the development and growth of the local workforce.”
Alexander Amartei said: “We are excited to work with NEOM to bring the first great swords and sandals epic since Troy and Gladiator to the world. As Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon marked a complete paradigm shift for Chinese cinema, we see Antara as a cultural extravaganza that will be a complete game changer in the region and dazzle the world in a lavishly artistic and sophisticated way.”
Stuart Sutherland added: “It’s exciting to be back in Saudi Arabia filming my fourth feature film through my local production company. Simon’s vision, the dramatic locations that NEOM affords, and the incredible true story of Antara make for an exhilarating cinematic adventure.”
In September, NEOM will host a range of productions, including MBC’s “Exceptional,” a TV drama series comprising 200 episodes per year, and “Hobal,” the Saudi feature film directed by acclaimed filmmaker Abdulaziz Alshlahei. Two Telfaz features will also start production this month at NEOM, as part of a recently announced partnership that aims to create up to nine TV and film productions over the next three years. Additionally, two reality series and several commercials are set to go into production in the coming weeks.
NEOM is an accelerator of human progress and a vision of what a new future might look like. It is a region in northwest Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea being built from the ground up as a living laboratory – a place where entrepreneurship will chart the course for this new future. It will be a destination and a home for people who dream big and want to be part of building a new model for exceptional livability, creating thriving businesses and reinventing environmental conservation.
NEOM will include hyperconnected, cognitive cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centers, sports and entertainment venues and tourist destinations. As a hub for innovation, entrepreneurs, business leaders and companies will come to research, incubate, and commercialize new technologies and enterprises in groundbreaking ways. Residents of NEOM will embody an international ethos and embrace a culture of exploration, risk-taking and diversity.