U.S. director Darren Lynn Bousman’s English and Arabic-language horror film “The Cello,” starring Jeremy Irons and “Saw” star Tobin Bell, is set to open theatrically across Saudi Arabia on Thursday, marking a significant moment in the kingdom’s moviemaking ambitions.
The high-end chiller, about a cellist who finds out his new instrument comes with a centuries-old curse, is generating local buzz and robust ticket pre-sales following its gala premiere on Sept. 8 at Riyadh’s Muvi Cinemas multiplex.
Bousman – who is best known for his work on the “Saw” franchise (“Saw II,” “III” and “IV”) – attended the “Cello” launch along with several of the film’s Arab stars, including Saudi actress Elham Ali and Syrian actor Samer Ismail (“The Day I Lost My Shadow”), plus the film’s U.S. producer Lee Nelson (“The Ice Road”), co-producer Raul Talwar and exec producer Niko Ruokosuo.
“Getting to experience the movie in Riyadh with a packed audience was surreal,” Bousman said in a statement. “We had the great fortune to work with superstars of the Arab region. Then, add Jeremy Irons and Tobin Bell into the mix and it was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Irons and Bell did not make the trek to the “Cello” Saudi premiere.
The long-gestating film, which was shot in Saudi Arabia, Prague and Ireland, is being touted as the first Arabic horror movie for the international market. Interestingly, “The Cello” is written by Saudi poet and writer Turki Alalshikh, who is chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, based on his eponymous novel.
Saudi firm Rozam Media fully financed “Cello” and also owns all rights to the film, which will be released in North America, via an unspecified distributor, on Dec. 8. The film is produced by Rozam Media, Saudi’s Alamiya and Lee Nelson’s Envision Media Arts.
Nelson pointed out in a statement that the production comprised a team from all over the world.
“Our 250-person crew came from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Canada, Italy, Egypt, Africa, India, Ireland, Tunisia, Jordan, Dubai and the U.K,” he said, underlining that “Cello” was “a true global collaboration.”