Saudi director and New York Film Academy alumnus Aymen Khoja recently screened his soccer-themed film “Shoot” at the inaugural edition of the Arab Cinema Lab at DIFF. What makes the story unique is the fact that the main character is from Saudi Arabia. The privately-financed production is Saudi Arabia’s fourth-ever feature-length film.
Egyptian actor El-Masry, best known internationally for his roles in “Rosewater” and “The Night Manager,” stars as a young Saudi expat in Los Angeles with dreams of pursuing a soccer career in the city against the wishes of his traditional father. The film also includes actors Patrick Fabian, Ayman Samman and US soccer star Bryan Jordan.
“I’ve always loved soccer, and we all know there aren’t many movies that focus on soccer,” said Khoja. “So, I decided to challenge myself and write one, and I told myself it had to be low budget.”
“As we all know movies can bring the world together, so I was really encouraged to write the story and pushed myself to make it happen,” added Khoja. “We don’t typically see a lot of movies that speak to Arabs in America.”
The New York Film Academy Los Angeles alumnus wrote, produced and directed the film under the auspices of his Santa Monica and Jeddah-based Khoja Bros label.
“NYFA provided me with a lot of knowledge,” said Khoja. “Not only how to direct a movie, but also how to write, how to produce, and how to use all the other elements: music, sound, color, production design, etc. NYFA has great staff. Without their help I wouldn’t be able to make the movie.”
Khoja is now developing a second film that will also marry both US and Arab cultures — a thriller about the kidnapping of a young Saudi student by a ruthless gangster.
“We need more Saudi filmmakers to make feature films,” says Khoja. “They need to be brave to make the decision and have the commitment. I care about telling stories and helping in developing our cinema industry.”
His aims for “Shoot” to have a limited theatrical release worldwide before online streaming platforms and TV.