Backed by the Saudi Film Commission, Neom and Riyadh-based production company AlSarid Films, 'Within Sand' is written and directed by first-time filmmaker Moe Alatawi.
Alsarid Films has announced its latest feature film, Within Sand, set to premiere in theatres across Saudi Arabia on February 15. Directed by Mohammed Alatawi, this film marks a significant milestone in Saudi cinema, being the first to be shot in Neom and featuring an all-Saudi cast.
Within Sand unfolds a narrative of survival and self-discovery, following Snam, a 23-year-old tobacco merchant portrayed by newcomer Raed Alshammari, on a treacherous odyssey across the desert. Ambushed and left for dead, Snam’s mission to reunite with his pregnant wife transforms into a relentless struggle for survival. Amidst the vast expanse of the desert, he forges an unlikely companionship with a lone wolf, confronting his inner demons and redefining his journey towards fatherhood.
Director Mohammed Alatawi explained the film’s cultural significance: “Within Sand is much more than a film; it’s a journey into the heart of a tale deeply rooted in Saudi culture. Rich in tradition and emotion, this story has long deserved a place on the big screen. We’ve blended our cultural heritage into this story, creating a film that I hope will touch hearts at home and beyond.”
Commenting on the film’s production, he added: “The project experienced several phases, such as shooting for more than a month in the freezing desert and working with a wolf for a significant portion of our filming schedule. Nelson, the wolf from Horkai Centre in Hungary, quickly became an integral part of our cast by the third day of filming, and we all felt his absence when we filmed his final scene. In the post-production phase, split between London, Italy and Finland, we concentrated on preserving the film’s cultural essence with the help of our skilled international team. This collaboration turned into a vibrant exchange of cultures, leading to a European orchestra experimenting with Saudi musical instruments. This innovative fusion produced authentic sounds and rhythms, enriching the film’s acoustic landscape.”
Within Sand producers Reem Alatawi and Jana Dahlawi expressed their pride in this new cinematic achievement, noting that it reflects the richness and diversity of Saudi storytelling. “The production included a staff of more than 60% Saudis, with the addition of expertise from more than 20 nationalities, as well as valuable local contributions from Tabuk,” said Jana Dahlawi.
Reem Alatawi added: “The dedication of the people of the region, especially the Bani Attiya tribe, and their unlimited support, which served as the beating heart of the production stage, in addition to our commitment to environmental sustainability, which reflects Neom’s principle of ‘nature first’, ensuring that our practices are environmentally friendly.”
The filmmakers also highlighted the significant strides made by women in Saudi cinema, underscoring their pivotal role in overcoming the challenges of filming in the Neom desert. “Within Sand exemplifies the fusion of cinematic ingenuity with environmental stewardship, laying the groundwork for a sustainable future in the Kingdom’s film industry.”
Expressing gratitude, the producers extended special acknowledgement to the Neom Media Industries sector and their dedicated team for their unwavering support and invaluable contributions to the ambitious production. These sentiments underscore a forward-looking vision aimed at elevating Saudi cinema on the global stage, with a focus on sustainability, women’s empowerment, and the pivotal role of strategic partnerships in achieving success.
Lead actor Raed Alshammari shared his personal connection and creative contribution: “From the moment I first read the script of Within Sand, I felt an immediate and profound connection with its narrative. This deep connection inspired me to contribute creatively beyond acting; I wrote a poem that conveys the essence of my character’s journey and is also featured in a pivotal scene of the film. This poem adds a layer of depth and emotion to an already compelling storyline.”
The film stars an all-Saudi cast led by Ra’ed Alshammari, Adwa Fahd, Muhand Alsaleh, Fatima Alsharif and Obaid Alwadaani, while a real-life wolf was brought on set for added authenticity.
This pioneering film has already garnered acclaim, clinching the Jury Prize at the Red Sea Film Festival, with acclaimed filmmaker Oliver Stone leading the jury. Additionally, it participated in the Daw’ Competition organised by the Saudi Film Commission. The production received comprehensive logistical support from Neom Media Industries, showcasing the region’s burgeoning influence in the cinematic landscape.