Two well-known feature films have been produced in Kuwait, Bas ya bahr (Cruel Sea, 1972) and Urs al-Zayn (The Wedding of Zein, 1976), both directed by Khalid al-Siddiq. The Cruel Sea was the first feature film to be made in a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country. Kuwait became the only GCC nation so far to submit a movie for the Academy Awards (Oscars).The film also played at the subsequent Venice Film Festival. It is about the son of a poor pearl diver who loves a merchant’s daughter betrothed to an elderly man. While diving the youth gets his hand trapped by a huge clam. His friend has to amputate his hand in order to rescue him, but the young man drowns before being brought to the boat. His beloved, meanwhile, is raped by her husband on her wedding night. The friend looks through the dead boy’s cache of oysters and finds a huge pearl. He hopes that, by giving it to his friend’s family, his friend’s death might not be in vain. When the boy’s mother is confronted with her son’s body and the pearl, she scorns the sea and flings the pearl back.
The Wedding of Zein is based on a novel written in 1969 by the influential Sudanese author Tayeb Salih. It portrays the life of villagers in northern Sudan and deals with social restrictions, economic boundaries, and people trying to break through, this time with a happy ending.
Another famous movie is closely associated with Kuwait. The 1972 Syrian film al-Makhdu’un (The Duped), shot in Syria by Egyptian director Tawfik Saleh, based on Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani’s story Rijal fi al-Shams (Men in the Sun), portrays three Palestinian refugees of different generations trying to find their way from Iraq to Kuwait, the land of promise. But they die on Kuwait’s border, suffocated in the road tanker they were hiding in.
Several Western films have been shot in Kuwait, including The 13th Warrior (1999) by John McTiernan, starring Antonio Banderas.
Kahin Na Kahin Milenge is a Bollywood movie produced in Kuwait in 2009. While the West is often said to stereotype Arabs in movies, here Kuwait helped Bollywood do so. The film suggests that Arabs do little but dance and sing in the streets. The movie is about an Indian who came to Kuwait more than 25 years ago to make a living and save money so that he could retire to his hometown. Finally the day comes when he plans to return, but his daughter now considers Kuwait her motherland and prefers to stay.
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