RIYADH: The Saudi short film “The Whaler” won the science prize at the 2022 Nice International Film Festival, held in the south of France, on May 22.
The film documents the lives of fishermen in Saudi Arabia, showcasing the beauty of the Kingdom and its maritime world to international audiences.
It offers a unique insight into past and present generations of fishermen – known as “hawata” (Arabic for “whalers”) – through Abu Hilal, an esteemed elder of the Yanbu fishing scene.
Coastal and industrial city of the Red Sea, Yanbu is strategically located because it is close to the Suez Canal.
Speaking to Arab News, filmmaker Saleh Bukhamseen said: “One of the main challenges that we – cameraman Wael and myself – faced while filming ‘The Whaler’ was the extreme weather conditions and the obstruction of the Suez Canal, which happened in 2021.”
Bukhamseen is a self-taught underwater cinematographer with eight years of experience. He combines his passion for diving and cinema to create unique films that showcase the beauty of the sea, its creatures and its relationship with humans.
“I wanted to capture the spirit of people who live off sea life and show their determination. Fish is a favorite meal for many, especially on Fridays, but do we realize the incredible journey behind this beautiful meal? ‘Hawata’ will show it to you!” said Boukhamseen.
He has worked on several projects for the Saudi government, such as films promoting tourism, and produced short documentaries.
“When you combine talent and passion, there is no limit. It takes a lot of effort to be a screenwriter, producer, director, underwater cameraman and editor, but with teamwork, spectacular results can be achieved,” said Bukhamseen, who filmed and produced “The Whaler” alongside only one other person — his cameraman Wael.
Bukhamseen said he was inspired to shoot his film when he started diving and saw the life and beauty lurking beneath the surface of the Red Sea. What he couldn’t describe in words, he said, he captured on film.
“The Whaler,” just 12 minutes long, will be available for worldwide release once the film festival run is over. Bukhamseen said those few minutes took five months to prepare, film, edit and present to audiences and panelists.
In its 10th edition, the Nice International Film Festival is held annually in Nice, France.
The week-long event allows aspiring independent filmmakers to showcase their work to international audiences.
“The Nice International Film Festival has strict criteria for its awards, which cover originality, creativity, film quality, story structure and editing,” Bukhamseen said. “‘Hawata’ was judged by a panel of international film experts to assess whether or not the film deserved to win the trophy.”
During the festival, audiences are presented with films over a week-long period, culminating in a prestigious ceremony in which exceptionally talented filmmakers, screenwriters and actors receive awards for their respective film categories.
Bukhamseen told Arab News that he is proud to represent his country, Saudi Arabia, and encourages all aspiring filmmakers to follow their hearts, develop their technical skills and, above all, respect the environment. .
Besides “The Whaler”, he has produced three films: “Plastic Inferno”, “Strange Neighbor” and “The Patient Minarets”, all of which are environmental documentaries.