Madayen is being shown as part of the #AFF2017 Saudi Showcase at the New Parkway Theatre on October 20 at 8:05pm. And special guest writer/actor Hakeem Jomah from the film will join us! Get your tickets here.

Set in the notoriously cursed, djinn-infested Madayen Saleh ruins in the northwestern sector of the Kingdom, Madayen is a found footage psychological horror ghost story, with a little bit of goofiness tossed in. We spoke to writer and producer of the film, Hakeem Jomah, about being one of Saudi Arabia’s first and only horror filmmakers.

Arab Film and Media Institute: How did you first get into filmmaking? I understand you were a doctor before you got into this field. What made you change paths?

Hakeem Jomah: I love films, I love the volatile and everchanging formula of the visual narrative, I love the stories they tell. And I wanted to tell stories.

I haven’t changed paths, I was a doctor when I wrote Madayen and was a doctor when I finished it. I’m just a doctor that also loves making movies.

AFMI: What was the inspiration for Madayen? Is the premise based on any real myths?

HJ: I love horror films (surprise!), but I hated where the genre was going. Reliant more on jump scares and CGI and less on what truly makes a horror film great: the imagination of the viewer, the less you show them the more afraid they’ll be. You’re afraid of the dark because you don’t know what’s beyond it.

Madayen Saleh was a massive source of Saudi Urban legends. You’d hear all kinds of stories and NONE of them the same. This was an original story inspired by the culmination of stories I had heard all my life.

AFMI: Madayen is right at the beginning of a new trend of Saudi horror films. Can you speak about this development at all? How does it feel to be one of the first?

HJ: When I pitched this to my crew. I specifically said I wanted to make a film in Saudi Arabia that wasn’t ABOUT Saudi Arabia. There’s more to us than that.

This is just a horror film that happens to take place in ruins located in Saudi Arabia.

ONE of the first? I’ll toot our horn here and say as far as a full fledged feature, we ARE the first!

AFMI: What made you choose the “found footage” style that you utilize in Madayen?

HJ: Found footage is an over-utilized genre with underused potential. A lot can be told from a real, raw perspective. You’re there with the characters and you grow with them.

I felt the candid misadventures of three Saudi guys from Jeddah on a road trip was very humanizing and emotionally exuding when told from a found footage perspective.

AFMI: Did you have any major hurdles making this film?

HJ: This was my first ever foray into film. EVERYTHING was a learning experience: Production, editing, organising, casting. It was a humbling experience and one of the most exhausting years for all of us.

We all had parts to play that were completely over our heads but we hit the books and got to learning and here we are.

AFMI: Horror is not a very prominent genre in Arab film, but with Halloween approaching here in the States it seems only appropriate to try to watch a few! Do you have any favorite Arab horror films that you would recommend?

HJ: Adel Imams Al Ins Wal Jin is a horror gem of Egyptian cinema and worth taking a look at!

Also Madayen, I hear it’s really something.

Madayen is being shown as part of the #AFF2017 Saudi Showcase which will present three films that represent the best of Saudi filmmaking. This special selection will be shown at the New Parkway Theatre on October 20 at 8:05pm. Get your tickets here!