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Godus brothers passionate to make genuine Saudi films ‘The Book of Sun' to premiere locally during Eid Al-Adha holidays
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 07 - 2020


Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Saudi feature film Shams Al-Maaref (The Book of Sun) will premiere in cinemas across the Kingdom starting this weekend, during the Eid Al-Adha holidays.
Shams Al-Maaref was supposed to premiere in March at the first edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival, but the festival got canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Directed by Faris Godus, produced and starring his brother Suhaib, Shams Al-Maaref (The Book of Sun) captures the spirit of a generation whose lives were transformed by the Internet.
Set in 2010, high school senior Husam (Baraa Alem) finds himself drawn toward video production. This obsession takes his focus away from the ordinary pursuits of high school and teenage life.
The Godus brothers' claim to fame was through their efforts in projects such as Telfaz 11 and their acclaimed short film "Depressing Scene" (2016) and the Saudi Ramadan TV series "Another Planet."
The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation supported the film, bestowing a $500,000 production grant via the Tamheed Fund, a one-time award for emerging Saudi filmmakers.
"Shams Al-Maaref" is considered "an insider's look at the origins of new cinema in Saudi Arabia."
One-half of the Godus brothers, Faris, directs and edits, while his brother, Suhaib, produces and acts. Faris' 2016 sci-fi short, Predicament in Sight, produced by Telfaz11, the online content creation studio, is available on Netflix as part of the Windows in the Desert package.
His debut feature film, "The Book of Sun", is an audacious tale about Saudi film clubs and cinema culture in 2010. It's a picture into the world of independent Saudi filmmaking, from which a whole new generation of directors is now emerging, making entertaining, visually arresting, and artistically innovative films.
Faris said on the film premier in Jeddah last week that "releasing the film during these tough times where most movies are being postponed will give our movie the chance to shine."
More about Gudos brothers and their debut movie in the following excerpts:
Q. Why is the story of "The Book of Sun" based in the year 2010 specifically?
F: Even though the story needs to be set in 2010, our consumption of media in the last decade had gone through many phases. Each of us has access to massive platforms through social media to easily output personalized content, whereas media was confined to television and radio in the past.
For a long time, Tash Ma Tash remained the leading Saudi program without much competition. It was the one show that told our stories as truthfully as possible. All subsequent Saudi projects took the same format more or less. With the introduction of new technologies like DSLR cameras and YouTube, more original content geared toward the youth started to appear.
I mean at the time with abundant productions by Uturn, Telfaz 11 (local production houses), digital sketch programs, and digital short films, Saudi ranked amongst the top producers and consumers of digital content. To be honest, without that digital revolution, I would not be making this movie now. "The Book of Sun" is more or less a documentary of sorts to that golden age of digital content, which I believe is the most important period in the Saudi film industry's evolution.
Q: You two are considered a local duet, what sort of influence do you pose on each other during your creative projects?
S: The level of comfort working together as filmmakers goes back to our childhood. Even though I am six years older than Faris, growing up with him allowed me to remain a bit longer in childhood. When I hit my teenage years, I sort of pulled Faris along with me. I believe this allowed us to create a deep connection as siblings and later on as partners. If I create something on my own and show it to Faris, I can tell if he liked it or not from his reaction. If he likes what I come up with, he works with me to develop it further; otherwise, he leaves them alone.
F: As far as I'm concerned, there is no creative process unless Suhaib is involved. Since a young age, any content we've created, we've done together. You know that feeling of when you're busy and wish you had a clone that could pick up some of the responsibility? Suhaib is that clone for me.
Q: Any movie goes through development stages, from the conception of an idea to screenwriting it to production and post. Which is your favorite part of the creative process that perhaps renews your love of filmmaking?
F: Regarding our latest project, the most enjoyable step was brainstorming ideas for the plot. The idea hit us while we were in the car, and we immediately started brainstorming plot points. I had to take notes on my phone. This renewed my love for filmmaking because it was just such an organic and intuitive process.
S: I enjoy the writing phase of any project. We have lots of fun writing stories, but the most challenging phase of any of our projects has to be production. I like to call it the thin line between genius and madness. These are the moments we most remember. The production feels like another life. We start it, end it, and can never get it back.
Q: What were your favorite scenes to shoot, and what kind of challenges did you face?
F: I mostly enjoyed shooting the comedic scenes, as they are the ones that most audiences identify with. Even though it bothered me when the crew began laughing at certain scenes, it still gave me the feeling that the cast was going out of their way to make the scenes as funny as possible and the overall euphoric effect these scenes had on the set were pleasant.
S: As for me, I enjoyed the first scene in the film. To avoid spoilers, we'll call it the breakfast table scene. Time constraints were our biggest hurdle, but we like challenging work.
Q: The title "The Book of Sun" is a reference to the banned book about witchcraft. Why did you choose this name, and what does your project have to do with the book?
S: There is no direct connection between our movie and the book. The name will make sense when you see the movie. Other than that, I think it's a catchy and memorable name.
F: The name also, kind of, sounds like the "Ministry of Knowledge." This also adds a double entendre to the title. Another reason why we chose it.
Q: The cast and crew on this set were perhaps the biggest you've ever worked with. How were you able to convey your ideas and visions to such a large crew, and how was it working with a big team?
F: For me, it all starts with hiring the right team. These are people I've been friends with for a long time, such as cameraman Amro Alamari and Mazin Maimani, our art director. The rest of the team, who might be new, would have an idea of how we work through our previous projects. Working with a large group is a blessing. All parties treated the movie as if it was their own. The feeling on the set was that of a big family.
S: In my opinion, the Saudi film industry is based on short-term projects such as advertisements, both of which lack the qualities necessary to produce a feature film. This created a couple of issues that had the potential to affect the project negatively. However, we did gain much experience in working with and managing a large team as well as networking with a large number of people in the industry. Some we will happily work with again, others not so much.
Q: Your movie marks a new era of Saudi Cinema as cinematic projects are being locally funded. What are your futures plans in light of this?
F: First of all, we're taking a long break, and then we'll focus on producing our content.
S: I agree with the vacation. As you may know, Faris and I used to work for Telfaz 11 as employees for a long time, and we recently parted ways. We left to focus more on our projects and our personal development. At that transitional time, we got the opportunity to produce this film. I guess we'll focus on developing our skills as independent filmmakers and working toward the betterment of the Saudi film industry.
Q: Which directors or movies do you consider have had the most significant influence on your work?
F: When I was younger, I watched a lot of movies. I used to prefer summer blockbusters, especially those that had interesting plot twists. At the time, plot twists were the standard for the film's quality, in my opinion. As time passed, I started gravitating towards movies with exceptional stories, cinematography, and art direction. I seek out critically acclaimed movies that kind of honed my radar to look for films with high production values during high school. As for influential directors, I think Stanley Kubrick inspires me, especially in movies like "A Clockwork Orange" and "Eyes Wide Shut". I also prefer Quentin Tarantino, whose influence is visible in my work, I think. More recent directors whom I find inspiring are Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson.
Q: What is it that made you want to become a filmmaker?
F: Two things, first of all, my exposure to Hollywood films from a young age; when compared to the local content at the time, Hollywood movies were of a much better quality conceptually and production-wise. This gave me the incentive to try and create stories stemming from our environment with the same high standard found in foreign films. The second reason is that I'm naive. I mean, I look at a project that's been done many times before, and I think that I can do it better. I think this blind enthusiasm that my brother and I share allowed us to develop ourselves as filmmakers regardless of the hardships we experienced along the way.


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