Many of us have at least heard whispers about Shams Al-Ma’arif, the 13th century book of magic and spells written by Algerian scholar Ahmed Al Buni. Considered a compendium for all things occult, it’s no surprise it’s been banned in most of the Islamic world - and it’s even less of a surprise that the controversy surrounding it has ironically further cemented its cult status. What is surprising, however, is that a film of the same name has come out Saudi Arabia and it’s hitting screens globally on Netflix this October 1st. With the book title having become synonymous with spookiness, filmmaking brothers Faris and Suhab Godus borrow it to set the tone for their comedy film about a group of teenagers attempting to make a horror film, set against the backdrop of the rapid social changes being witnessed in the Kingdom over the last few years.
Having shot to viral fame with comedic shorts, the Godus brothers are known for their work both in front of and behind the camera, often appearing in their own skits. In Shams Al Ma’arif, Suhaib takes on one of the leading roles as the teacher who joins students Hussam and Ma’an on their harebrained scheme to make a horror film on zero budget. Alongside the hilarity that ensues is timely, relevant commentary on the lives and times of young Saudis in the digital age, trapped between tradition, social change and their own ambitions.
Though it was slated to premier at the first edition of the Red Sea Film Festival earlier this year, the global pandemic put the theatrical release of the Godus’ brothers’ first feature film on hold. Nevertheless, as the festival sought to keep some socially-distanced programming going through lockdown, the Godus brothers and their team won a $500,000 grant as part of the event’s Tamheed Fund. Though it was released in selected cinemas across the GCC during the Eid Al Adha period this year, its Netflix debut will mark its widest release thus far.