Arabian Alien, a short film by Saudi director Meshal Aljaser debuted at this year’s festival this weekend.
The film, a part surreal, part noirish desert adventure, follows Saad, a married muslim man who suffers from depression. Unhappy with his life and marriage, an encounter with aliens in the desert, changes his life and cures his depression.
The short, Starring Mohammed Alhamdan or Warchieff, and Omani-American actor Abu Swaleh has been described as a sci-fi romance by the director. At its heart though are themes of isolation and frustration, albeit shot in an off-beat, indie-film style.
Born in Riyadh to a conservative Saudi family, Meshal Aljaser has been making Arabic language shorts since the age of 17. His work ranges from surrealist comedy to serious social issues. Under Concrete, an earlier short he made in 2017 focused on Syrian children’s lives and Is Sumiyati Going To Hell? Looked at the lives of nannies in Saudi.
After his work was uploaded to the Folaim Ya Gholaim YouTube channel it went on to gain hundreds of millions of views. After a stint interning at a Saudi production company he went to study film in LA. It was there that he wrote and directed Arabian Alien.
The film’s introductory teaser already has close to a quarter of a million hits in its own right and looks like becoming a cult classic. The soundtrack, graphics and makeup recall myriad classic sci-fi touch points, from British classic Dr Who to Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Aljaser meanwhile, has said that he’s influenced by the work of visionary directors Kubrick and Nolan, particularly 2001 A Space Odyssey and Interstellar.
The film will now go on a tour of the world playing at various festivals.
As for Aljaser? Well: Watch this space.