Mahmoud Sabbagh, the groundbreaking Saudi director, producer and screenwriter whose 2016 debut feature Barakah Meets Barakah became the first Saudi title to debut at the Berlinale, has unveiled his third film project. 

The Hollywood Reporter can reveal that Sabbagh — who was instrumental in the creation of the Red Sea Film Festival and was its director until stepping down in 2020 to return to filmmaking — is now in production on Last Party in Rumah Desert. 

Set in contemporary Saudi Arabia and based on Sabbagh’s own script, the film is described as a “drama of burnout and passion that takes place over one long night.” It centers around a cash-driven local impresario who wanders the nightlife venues and circuits with his music troupe in their struggle to stay afloat amid professional strife and a scene shift. 

Last Party in Rumah Desert, coming six years after Sabbagh’s second feature, Amra and the Second Marriage (which had its world premiere at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival), stars Abdullah Albarrak, local singer Marwa Salem, Sami Hanafi and Radwan Jifri. Shooting is now underway in Jeddah and Riyadh’s desert, with Cairo-based veteran — and the director’s long-time collaborator — Victor Credi, serving as cinematographer, and is expected to continue until mid-December.

El-Housh Productions, the Jeddah-based indie label established by Sabbagh that was behind both Barakah Meets Barakah — which is also considered Saudi Arabia’s first romantic-comedy — and Amra and the Second Marriage, produces the film, with Nine Projects as co-producer. 

The news of the project was revealed to THR during the second edition of the Red Sea Film Festival, which runs through Dec. 10. 

Alex Ritman

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