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Saudi Director Mahmoud Sabbagh Unveils Movie ‘Last Party In R. Desert’

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi director Mahmoud Sabbagh, best known internationally for 2016 comedy-romance Barakah Meets Barakah, has unveiled a trailer and first images for his third feature ahead of its wide theatrical launch in Saudi cinemas on May 9.

Entitled Last Party In R. Desert, the dark comedy revolves around cash-driven local impresario Najm who wanders nightlife venues with his music troupe as they struggle to stay afloat amid professional strife and a scene shift in contemporary Saudi Arabia.

As the heir to Kaka Al-Qamar, one of Jeddah’s most renowned wedding singers, he finds himself entangled in a drama of burnout and obsession that takes place over one long night filled with twists, turns, and disruptions.

The movie was shot in Saudi Arabia, between the outskirts of the red sea port city of Jeddah and the capital of Riyadh, and, like Barakah Meets Barakah, it also promises to push boundaries for its depiction of Saudi Arabia in a time of sweeping change.

Abdullah Albarrak stars as Najm opposite acting and singing star Marwa Salem as the troupe’s lead female singer Cola, with other cast members including late actor Sami Hanafi as Silver, the professional sound engineer, and renowned local musician Radwan Jifri as oud player Tarefi.

Trailer for Last Party In R. Desert

Sabbagh wrote and directed the feature and also produces under the banner of this Jeddah-based El-Housh Productions in co-production with Cairo and Dubai-based boutique production company Nine Projects.

Front Row Arabia is distributing in Saudi theaters, and the Arab Radio and Television Network (ART) is the digital distributor across the MENA region.

Sabbagh made Saudi film history with Barakah Meets Barakah in 2016 as one of the country’s first feature films to be shot as its 35-year cinema ban began to ease, ahead of its lifting in late 2017.

Starring then emerging performers Hisham Fageeh and Fatima Al-Banawi, the romantic comedy world premiered in Berlin and then enjoyed a buzzy North American premiere in Toronto later that year.

It was then Saudi Arabia’s second entry to the Oscars, but was not nominated, ahead of becoming the first Saudi movie to be acquired by Netflix.

Sabbagh’s second feature Amra and the Second Marriage, the 2018 tragicomedy about a middle-aged housewife who takes drastic measures when she learns her husband is planning to take a second wife, premiered in Cairo.

In between times, Sabbagh opened Cinema El-Housh in 2019, the first official art house cinema in Jeddah, which has played a key role in fostering cinema culture in the city.

He was also briefly head of the Red Sea International Film Festival but stepped down to return to filmmaking after the inaugural edition stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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