Dubai-based pay-TV and streaming service OSN has partnered with Arab film distributor MAD Solutions, the Red Sea Fund, and the U.K.’s Global Screen Fund, plus U.K. companies Corniche Media and Caspian Films, on Saudi multihyphenate Ahd Kamel’s long gestating feature film debut “My Driver and I.”
The production partnership for the feature was announced during a gala dinner at this week’s Red Sea Film Festival, which is taking place in Jeddah, where the film is also set.
Jordanian actress Saba Mubarak will star alongside regional acting talents, Qusai Kheder, Mostafa Shehata and Baraa Alem.
The feature is being produced as an OSN Original for its pay-TV and streaming network that will showcase the film for its MENA audiences. MAD Solutions holds all international distribution rights outside those Arab-speaking territories.
Kamel grew up in Saudi Arabia and moved to New York in 1998, where she studied at the Parsons School of Design, the New York Film Academy in 2005 and the William Esper Studio.
After completing two shorts, she directed the 2013 short “Sanctity,” which MAD also distributed, that was the first Saudi film ever to be selected for the Berlinale, in the Shorts competition.
As an actor she starred in the 2014 pic “Wadjda” – the first feature-length film to be shot in Saudi Arabia, whose director, Haifaa Al-Mansour, was the first Saudi woman to direct a feature film. Kamel also co-starred alongside Carey Mulligan in the 2018 BBC/Netflix series “Collateral,” written by David Hare.
“My Driver and I” follows the story of Salma, a Saudi girl from an affluent family, and Gamar, a young Sudanese man, who develop a close friendship. The pic is based on Kamel’s memories of Jeddah in the 1980s and 90s. She previously explained to Variety: “I’m making this film because I grew up with a driver, who practically raised me, took me back and forth to school every single day, and when my parents passed away when I was a teenager, he was the only person who could rein me in. He really taught me a lot of the lessons I learned in life, but I only came to realize this about 10 years ago, after he passed away.”
Alaa Karkouti and Maher Diab, co-founders of MAD Solutions, commented: “Having watched Ahd develop her labor of love over the years, it gives us so much joy to be part of the production alliance that will finally allow her exquisite story to come to life. Her wonderful story opens a window on life in Saudi Arabia during her formative years, a Saudi world that is now undergoing such rapid transformation.”
Joe Kawkabani, group CEO at OSN, added: “It’s time the region’s untold stories deserve a wider audience, and ‘My Driver and I’ is the embodiment of stories that deserve an expansive medium.”