The first GCC film – and the story of how Sheikh Zayed saw it
“I felt 47 years younger for seeing the film again here tonight,” said director Khalid Al Siddiq at the start of his Q&A session following the screening of his film The
Cruel Sea (pictured below), a 1972 drama, at NYU Abu Dhabi on Sunday night. It was the first feature film to have been directed and produced by a national in the Gulf region, and was selected as the country’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 45th Academy Awards. “I had to sell land to make this film,” Al Siddiq said proudly. It tells the story of a young man who pleads with his father, a former pearl diver who was injured by a shark, to let him go and earn a living collecting the precious haul from the sea. The young man, played by Kuwaiti actor Mohammed Al Mansour, delivers a moving portrayal of desperation and the need to prove oneself to family and society. Renowned Kuwaiti screen and stage actors Saad Al Faraj and Hayat Al Fahad play the young man’s father and mother and their performances reveal a glimpse of what was ahead for their incredible careers. Al Siddiq recalled how the film was first shown in Abu Dhabi. “I got a call from one of the ministers in Kuwait telling me that Sheikh Zayed would like to see the film. I had to deliver it to him.” Al Siddiq was told that Sheikh Zayed loved it. The Cruel Sea is yet to be restored and remastered properly, and considering its monumental value in the region’s film history it is definitely deserving of that love and attention.