Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 October 2019

'Born a King': Prince Faisal's role in creating Saudi Arabia coming to big screen

The 14-year-old was sent on a historic trip to London in 1919

Eighteen-year-old Saudi actor Abdullah Ali plays Prince Faisal. 
Eighteen-year-old Saudi actor Abdullah Ali plays Prince Faisal. 

A new film is set to bring the story of a young King Faisal's diplomatic mission to London, a trip which laid the foundations for the formation of Saudi Arabia, to the big screen.

Born a King takes place in 1919, and centres on then Prince Faisal’s trip to London when he was 14 years old. The film's trailer was announced on social media by the King Faisal Foundation. It's expected to be released later this month.

The historic trip was a diplomatic mission by Prince Faisal on behalf of his father King Abdulaziz Al Saud, who was the Emir of Nejd and Head of the House of Saud at the time, in order to secure the formation of a new country: what would later become Saudi Arabia.

In London, Prince Faisal must negotiate and meet with some of the most important figures of the period: including Winston Churchill, Lord Curzon, Princess Mary (later Queen Mary), Lawrence of Arabia and the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII.

The young prince even forms a special friendship with Princess Mary, who seemingly takes him under her wing.

King Abdulaziz (known in the West as Ibn Saud), Prince Faisal's father, went on to become the founder and first ruler of Saudi Arabia when it was formed in 1932. Prince Faisal became the third king of the country, ruling from 1964 to 1975.

Born a King is directed by Balearic Spanish director Agusti Villaronga, who until now has directed mostly Spanish films and television projects.

The cast includes a number of Saudi actors and crew, with filming taking place between the kingdom and London.

Eighteen-year-old Saudi actor Abdullah Ali plays Prince Faisal, and is joined by fellow Saudi and Jaber actor Rawkan Binbella as his father.

'Born a King' will tell the story of Prince Faisal's diplomatic trip to London. Courtesy of Celtic Films Entertainment
'Born a King' will tell the story of Prince Faisal's diplomatic trip to London. Courtesy of Celtic Films Entertainment

Though the British actors in the film aren't necessarily household names, you've probably seen their faces in a Hollywood blockbuster, or a British television series or two.

British actor Ed Skrein (Alita: Battle Angel, If Beale Street Could Talk, Game of Thrones) plays the character of Harry St John Bridger Philby, Hermione Corfield (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) plays Princess Mary, and Laurence Fox (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Becoming Jane, Victoria) plays Laurence of Arabia.

The trailer shows an intriguing juxtaposition of life in early 1900s England and what was then known as Arabia. It's believed to be the first commercial feature film set in Saudi Arabia.

"Friendship is about respect, friendship based on superiority is no friendship at all," a young Prince Faisal says in the trailer. "Let Hussein [Sharif] and his sons govern Mesopotamia if they have enough support and leave Arabia to my father. He is the only true leader."

This idea is perhaps best summed up by the character of Philby, who later tells his peers: "No man commands as much respect across Arabia as Prince Faisal's father."

Updated: September 2, 2019 03:12 PM

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