It's hard not to notice how more and more communities are embracing the power and influence of filmmaking in order to raise their status in an increasingly globalized and connected world, and King of the Sands is a perfect example of a movie depicting certain cultural relations in a fascinatingly strategic and highly controversial cinematic cultural power move. The film, an unauthorized biopic on the life of Saudi Arabia's first monarch Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd al-Rahman Al Saud (or "Ibn Saud"), is a bold project by Syrian television producer Najdat Anzour, the son of the "pioneer of Arab cinema," Ismail Anzour.
Clearly the stakes are visible here--Najdat Anzour has a reputation for embracing the controversial, and with King of the Sands, the director has already received lawsuit threats from third parties desperate to prevent the movie from being released. The dichotomous plot, which reveals both Ibn Saud's impoverished struggle to reconquer his homeland as well as his brutal ways in achieving such goals, has angered many in Saudi Arabia--where the film will of course not be shown (apparently the country lacks movie theaters anyway).
Western- and Hollywood-style appeasement is quite evident in the trailer, which tries to depict an epic historical plot rather than anything remotely controversial or so culturally-brazen. And of course, there is the requisite Western actor in the film, Bill Fellows, to connect with viewers familiar with Downton Abbey (though, interestingly, his IMDB doesn't seem to have any information on his role in this dicey film just yet).
The filmmakers recently took out a big visual ad in Variety for King of the Sands without any information on the movie--no website, no names, etc., which is unique, to say the least. Should be quite a story--both this movie as well as how Syrian and Saudi Arabian audiences interpret the project.