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  • Sheryll Mericido

Antara, historical epic drama, directed by Simon West, set in Saudi Arabia

Venice, Italy, September 3, 2023 - The next historical epic drama, Antara," is moving to NEOM. The feature is directed by renowned director Simon West, whose credits include Con-Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The General's Daughter, The Expendables 2, The Mechanic, and When a Stranger Calls. It is set in northwest Saudi Arabia against one of NEOM's most spectacular backdrops.

The movie, which is based on a true narrative, portrays the tale of Antara ibn Shaddad, a warrior who was imprisoned and rose to fame in the sixth century. In addition to gaining his freedom, he rose to become Arabia's greatest knight and most illustrious poet. Alexander Amartei, a writer and producer, is a co-producer of the movie. Stuart Sutherland (Killing Eve, Born a King, The Man Who Fell To Earth), who most recently co-produced Kandahar, starring Gerard Butler, in the Kingdom, is also a co-producer for Celtic Arabia.

The 12-week NEOM production cycle is expected to start in early 2024. The movie will take advantage of NEOM's aggressive 40%+ cash rebate for feature films, TV dramas, reality programs, documentaries, and commercials. This will help the production by providing access to top-notch sound stages, support facilities, talent, and crew.

The movie will be shot in NEOM's Bajdah Studios, which not only allows for the capture of the breathtaking NEOM scenery but also has state-of-the-art sound stages for production. The movie will also make use of NEOM's major geographical feature, a 468-kilometer stretch of pristine Red Sea coastline.

According to Simon West, bringing Antara ibn Shaddad's narrative to the general public is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to further his legacy. One of those relatively unknown factual stories that demonstrates how much crazier real life can be than fiction is The Life of Antara. We will remain authentic to the story while advancing the local film industry thanks to the chance to shoot in the Banu Abs tribe's ancestral home. I'm excited to work on this project and look forward to producing something original for a large audience.

"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," said Wayne Borg, Managing Director of Media Industries, Entertainment, and Culture at NEOM. They also help our ecosystem thrive by giving young Saudis unmatched possibilities for job experience and by accelerating the expansion of the local labor force.

"We are thrilled to work with NEOM to bring the first great swords and sandals epic to the world since Troy and Gladiator," stated Alexander Amartei. We believe that Antara will completely revolutionize the game in the area and astound the world in a richly beautiful and sophisticated way, just as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon represented a paradigm leap for Chinese cinema.

"It's exciting to be back in Saudi Arabia, filming my fourth feature film through my local production company," continued Stuart Sutherland. An intense cinematic experience is created by Simon's vision, the dramatic settings provided by NEOM, and the amazing true story of Antara.

A variety of works will be presented at NEOM in September, including the 200-episode drama series "Exceptional" on MBC and the Saudi feature film "Hobal," which was helmed by renowned director Abdulaziz Alshlahei. As part of a previously announced cooperation that seeks to produce up to nine TV and film productions over the next three years, two Telfaz movies will also begin production this month at NEOM. In the upcoming weeks, two reality programs and several advertisements are also scheduled to begin filming.

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