Simon West, the UK director of Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, is set to film historic drama Antara in Saudi Arabia’s Neom.
Based on a true story, the feature centres on Antara ibn Shaddad, an imprisoned warrior who won his freedom to become a knight and one of the most celebrated poets in Arabian history.
The film is co-produced by Irish writer and producer Alexander Amartei. Celtic Films Entertainment CEO Stuart Sutherland is also a co-producer through his Jeddah-based production company Celtic Arabia. Sutherland’s credits includes Killing Eve and Saudi-set feature Born A King, and he recently co-produced Kandahar, starring Gerard Butler, in the Kingdom.
Production in Neom is scheduled for 12 weeks, beginning in early 2024, based at Bajdah Studios and set against the backdrop of Neom’s desert and mountain landscapes in northwest Saudi Arabia as well as the Red Sea coastline.
The feature will also benefit from Neom’s 40%+ cash rebate and will utilise the growing production hub’s sound stages, support facilities, talent and crews.
West, whose credits also include The General’s Daughter and The Expendables 2, said: “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.”
Wayne Borg, managing director of media industries, entertainment, and culture at Neom, said the production would “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.”
Neom, a $500bn megacity under construction in northwest Saudi Arabia, is working to establish itself as production destination and industry hub for the Middle East and North Africa region with its 40%+ production cash rebate incentive. It has provided the backdrop for more than 30 productions in the last 18 months including Rupert Wyatt’s Desert Warrior, starring Anthony Mackie and Sir Ben Kingsley; Bollywood feature Dunki, directed by Rajkumar Hirani and starring Shahrukh Khan; and Rise of The Witches, the region’s biggest-ever TV drama.
This month, Neom will host Exceptional, a 200-episode-a-year TV drama series for Saudi’s MBC, and Hobal, a Saudi feature directed by Abdulaziz Alshlahei. Two Telfaz features will also start production this month, as part of a recently announced partnership that aims to create up to nine TV and film productions over the next three years.