̵6;We have so many stories to tell,’ says breakout Saudi Netflix star Noor Alkhadara.
DUBAI: It’s a strange thing, creating an identity. For years, Saudi actress Noor Alkhadara knew exactly how to introduce herself: “Hello, I’m Noor, and I’m a streamer and gaming entrepreneur.” That’s what he studied, that’s what he devoted his life to – that’s what was portrayed in the pages of this newspaper.
How quickly things can change. With lead roles in two of the region’s most exciting new films, Netflix’s “The Matchmaker” and “HWJN,” Alkhadra has another line to add to her bio: breakout female Saudi star of 2023.
It all started during the COVID-19 lockdown. Until then, Alkhadra was living in London, focusing on his gaming company WeGeek and his popular Twitch streaming account. The way ahead was clearly visible.
“Then COVID happened, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, who am I? Why am I?’ It was a lot of depressing stuff,” Alkhadara told Arab News.
“Then I put everything aside and started thinking about what I really loved to do, deep down. I realized there was something I’d always wanted to do but never tried: acting. Started taking classes and fell in love with it. I wanted to start chasing roles right away,” she continues.
Alkhadra had been living outside Saudi Arabia for 11 years and a lot had changed since she left. While she always loved performing in front of her family growing up, pursuing acting as a career was never possible, so it was not her dream. But as she pursued a different life for herself, her home country began to change, and a powerful new film industry was on the verge of taking off. Alakhdra wanted to be a part of it.
“I didn’t want to act anywhere,” she says. “I wanted to act in Saudi. We have many stories to tell. But when I moved back to Saudi two and a half years ago, I didn’t really know anybody in the film scene. I started scrolling online forums, not really seeing any, and trying to find somewhere to post auditions.
Alakhdra quickly started making contacts, landing a few roles in TV series. It was all happening very fast. So fast, in fact, that when he saw a listing for “HWJN,” a film based on the best-selling fantasy novel in Saudi history, he didn’t even have a showreel to send, because that’s all he had filmed. There was nothing in it. issued at that time. Frustrated, she came up with a different plan.
“I had nothing to show, but I had a tape of myself that I shot at home where I took scenes from movies and replayed them in front of my camera. I[QuentinTarantino’s1994film]classic) ‘Pulp Fiction’, featuring Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace in the dining room with John Travolta’s Vincent Vega, and Samuel L. Jackson’s iconic ‘Ezekiel 25:17’ monologue. This is what I sent him in the form of a tape,” says Alkhadra.
It should never have worked—but beneath the rough edges, that tape had a quality that Iraqi director Yasir al-Yassiri couldn’t deny.
“The director sent me a message saying, ‘I saw your Pulp Fiction. I liked it. I really like the way you convey things with your eyes and your face without the need for words. I Surprised he saw all that from that little video, but I played it casually. I said, ‘OK, cool.’ And that’s how I got my first film,” says Alkhadra.
“HWJN is a romance between a supernatural being and a human – I play the human. It was such an honor, as it is the first Saudi fantasy film.” “I’m so excited to be a part of this.”
Alkhadr returned to Saudi to break ground, and followed up the Kingdom’s first fantasy with his first psychological thriller, a Netflix original called “The Matchmaker,” which was filmed in historic AlUla. She will once again play the role of the love interest, but this time she is not trustworthy. In it, she entices an unknown man to participate in an ancient matchmaking ritual in the desert, a ritual that involves far less romance than she suspects.
“After I was cast, I went to Riyadh to meet the director. We sat down and said, ‘Well, why is she like this?’ Then we began to come up with her back story, the depth of her pain and her anger and even her kindness. We find out that she’s not actually a bad person, she just wants things to be fair. “Every character we built made it so deep — and it really made sense to him,” Alkhadra says.
As this woman’s story unfolded, she could feel immediately, a creative impulse awakened in her. She started thinking about all those days and nights during the lockdown when she sat in bed, tormenting herself with worry, she struggled with it for years, never being able to shut her mind, Creating scenarios in my mind for endless things that might never happen. But worry, he felt, could be creativity misplaced.
“I always thought of my wild imagination as a curse. But really, in writing, it’s a blessing. I knew that if I wrote, I’d be able to make my weakness work for me, says Alkhadra.
While there are more film roles on the horizon, including another yet-to-be-announced directorial venture by Wail Abumansour with Saudi production company Telfaz11, which should hit festivals in 2024, Alkhadara is currently writing her own film. which is a fantasy project inspired by both. The movies she loves and the many video games she’s loved over the years, a passion she hasn’t let die, even though she doesn’t have time to stream anymore.
“At first it wasn’t even fiction. I was writing something from real life, inspired by a true story. I wrote the whole outline like that, but then, as I went along, a fantasy element naturally developed. It’s still a human story, but there’s a lot more going on that I’m still exploring,” she says.
Alkhadra is encouraged, not only by his near-instant success, but by how much room he has left to paint on the Saudi canvas. In a country where there are so many stories to be told, she is excited to be one of the lucky few who can start telling them.
“We are the ones who are setting things up for the next generation. We are the generation of pioneers, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to be a part of this. Tastes in Saudi are already changing – this Saudi films The ones that are at the top of the streaming charts are at the top of the box office,” she says. “It’s so beautiful to watch, and I can’t wait to be a part of where it goes next.”