JEDDAH: A panel discussion was held today in Jeddah during the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival, titled ‘Hawjan: From Novel to Screen’, to shed light on the journey of transformation from the best-selling novel “HWJN”. in a movie.
From words written on screen, speakers explained the success of the famous fantasy novel and the complexities of its transformation for the big screen.
The book, pronounced Hawjan, was the best-selling novel in Saudi Arabian history when it was released in 2013. It is the first book in a series of metaphysical and supernatural novels that describe the results of the interaction with the unknown realm of the jinn, which coexists with the human world.
Written by Ibraheem Abbas and translated into English by Yasser Bahjatt, the action-romance story details the interaction of two worlds and the unity of two different species to prevent the evil of their worlds from creeping into one another. ‘other.
It also spotlights good jinns and shows the world from their perspective, with humans haunting their homes, and shows how some humans are meaner to each other than jinns are to them.
The idea of adapting the novel tickled the ambitious mind of producer-turned-director Yasir Al-Yasiri after he received the book in 2017 from his friend, Emirati filmmaker Majid Al-Ansari.
At first, Al-Yasiri was not interested in the book, until his friend insisted that he read it. “I read it overnight and I was like, Woah, this is something I want to work on,” Al-Yasiri said in a press release at the Ritz-Carlton Jeddah on Saturday.
He added that he decided to work on it because it “addresses a genre rarely tackled in the Arab world” and to “break the norm and bring something new”.
The pair immediately started working on the script and began the casting and filming process in 2018 with Al-Ansari as director and Al-Yasiri as producer. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Al-Ansari from coming to Saudi Arabia, which led to Al-Yasiri becoming the director, and he proceeded with filming.
The story introduces Sawsan, a medical student from the human world, and Hawjan, a curious man from the jinn realm, which humanity cannot see. The jinn man becomes interested in getting to know Sawsan and his family after moving to a new house, where Hawjan and his family have been living for years.
While trying to maintain the boundaries between his life in the two worlds, Hawjan discovers he comes from a royal line and attempts to claim his right to the throne.
The screenplay, written by both Al-Ansari and Al-Yasiri, ensures the story has the necessary changes for the screen, but doesn’t stray from the book.
One of the biggest challenges the crew faced was creating a city that exists in the jinn world – Milaj City, which no human has seen. Al-Yasiri said they should keep in mind the civilizational landscape of the jinn world, which existed before humans.
Casting the actors was a bit tricky, trying to find characters in the actors rather than actors who could portray them. This led to the casting of brilliant Saudi actor Baraa Alem as Hawjan, Nour Khadra as Sawsan, Nayef Al-Dhufary as Zanan and Al-Anood Saud as Jamara.
As the book became a big hit in 2013, religious police ordered publishers to stop selling it 11 months after its release, as it sparked controversy among parents who began to complain that their children were taught black magic and how to call on the jinns.
A month later, the book was back on the shelves after the editors and review board made sure it was clear of the claims.
A trailer was released earlier today by Vox Cinema, giving a glimpse into the world created by Al-Yasiri. Produced by Image Nation, MBC and Vox Cinema, the film will be released in 2023.
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