x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE fans are potty over Potter

We talk to some UAE Harry Potter fans at the film's midnight premier to get their take on the final instalment in the franchise.

Special round Harry Potter 3D glasses were an option for moviegoers.
Special round Harry Potter 3D glasses were an option for moviegoers.

It's close to midnight on Tuesday and inside Marina Mall George Saad, a 23-year-old Egyptian, puts on a pair of 3D glasses.

He has drawn a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. He holds a map in his right hand, in the other, a brown blanket and sphere.

For this Abu Dhabi resident, the moment the final film in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, hit the screens marked a culmination of a love that began in childhood for the world's most famous wizard.

He was among hundreds of people who turned up in the wee hours for screenings at cinemas across Abu Dhabi yesterday. They were among the first in the world to see the film, which opens in the US and the UK today.

Saad, the UAE's self-proclaimed number-one Potter fan, was among other enthusiasts who flocked to early viewings yesterday morning across the UAE, which was one of the first countries in the world to begin regular screenings for the film.

"When I was in the eighth grade, my brother told me to read them [the books]," says Saad. "I got them from the school library, and I read the first in a class. I've been hooked ever since."

Saad brought along an entourage of friends.

"It was his idea to come along, but we wanted to come anyway," says 24-year-old Atif Aslam, from India.

"Yes, he made us come to this showing, but we love it," nods 24-year-old Sami Haddad, from Lebanon.

In a show of support for his friend, Haddad, an office worker, made a special trip from Dubai and intended to head straight back there after the credits rolled.

Later in the year, he adds, there are plans afoot to take their Hogwarts-obsessed companion to the recently opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park, in Orlando, Florida in the US.

Twelve-year-old Sahera Walker, from the UK, accompanied by her younger sister Hanah and her parents, also made the midnight trip.

"When the last book came out, we went to the shop at midnight," says 10-year-old Hanah. The sisters, she adds, even helped shop staff dole out the books to eager fans.

The girls came bearing a "marauder's map".

First introduced in the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, the map pinpoints the location of anyone within Harry's magic school, Hogwarts.

"It was very simple to make," Sahera adds. "We wet a tea-bag, and then rubbed it on some paper. To make the paper look old, we crumpled it up, and we also ripped the edges." The real trick, she adds, was to illustrate the map - using a black marker - while the paper was still damp. "It makes it sink in," she says.

Like many fans, the sisters see the films but prefer the Potter books.

"I like the books better, because they build a better image in your head," says Sahera.

Also making their way to the screening were Alan and Agha Khande - an Iraqi couple in their thirties who can count themselves among the franchise's newest Potter fans.

"Don't laugh, but I had chicken-pox last week, so we stayed in watching all the films," says Alan. "Eventually, we decided to come to the screening."

As he heads to his seat Alan thinks carefully before naming his favourite character: "Voldemort. He is so persistent, even though he knows he will fail at some point. Basically, he is fighting a kid and is not ashamed."

Filling the best seats in the medium-sized auditorium, the film opened with little fanfare and a smattering of applause.

The most adult of all the movies - the usually cherub-faced Daniel Radcliffe occasionally sports some delightfully wimpish stubble - the audience reacted to the scenes with laughter and even a cheer at one of the major plot resolutions.

And then it was done, two-and-half hours, 14 years of books and 10 years of movies later.

"It was a really good film, and I thought it did the story justice, but seeing all three of them [Harry, Ron, and Hermione] on platform nine-and-three-quarters was bittersweet," says Saad.

Suddenly he perks up.

"Hmmmm. Maybe I'll go see it again on Sunday."