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Arabia in St Andrews

Friday 21 May 2010

Still from 'Groom Number Five'Students at the University of St Andrews have transformed the windswept beaches of Fife into an exotic Arabian desert in an homage to Arabic film.

The thirty students – from countries as far as Egypt, Morocco and India – have played a starring role in a film written by their Arabic lecturer.  The hour long movie is acted out entirely in Arabic, and will be previewed tonight (Friday 21 May 2010) in St Andrews.

The film, ‘Groom Number Five’ was written by Arabic tutor Dina Al'Afranji, who first came up with the idea of a student film four years ago when she arrived in St Andrews.

Described as a ‘light hearted homage’ to classical Arabic films, with a few nods to modern Arabic TV dramas, the film tells the story of a girl who finds true love in spite of her widowed mother's well-meaning, but ill-fated, attempts to find her a suitable husband.  It was produced, directed and acted in entirely by St Andrews’ students.

Dina, from Palestine, commented, “The first inspiration came from a friend of mine who made her own Bollywood musical in Hindi with students in Paris. The reception was amazingly positive for a bunch of French kids trying to emulate the idols of Indian cinema - in India as well as France.

“I thought that it would be a really good way of bridging cultural barriers, bringing students into Middle Eastern culture - and challenging their language skills as well. I also wanted to highlight the the generation gap that exists nowadays between young Arabs and their parents. People don't realise it, but the pace of change in Middle Eastern culture today is amazing.”

The project, which involved students from countries including Belgium, Austria, Egypt, Sweden, America, Lebanon, Morocco, Tanzania, India and the UK, took around eight weeks in total to film and was partially funded by the University’s Middle East society.

Mostly shot in St Andrews, ‘with some creative location scouting’, the area is transformed on celluloid into a generic Middle Eastern country, with the famous West Sands doubling as a desert.  The town’s Lade Braes area meanwhile provides ‘fantasy Arabic love scene backdrops of greenery and running water’.

Dina continued, “It's been incredible how quickly this project has snowballed since I suggested it at a Middle East society party. The students have just been incredibly dedicated and hard working in making it happen. Originally I had in mind a fifteen, maybe twenty minute short. Pretty quickly, I realised that the level of enthusiasm and the number of people who wanted parts would mean making a much longer film with a more complicated script.

“Realising the quality of the product we've produced, we're thinking harder now about where to take it. One idea is to get it shown in other universities where Arabic is taught - perhaps particularly the American Universities in Arabic countries, where they teach a lot of Arabic to foreigners - to show what can be done.”

‘Groom Number Five’ (in Arabic with subtitles) will be shown at 6.30pm at School II, St Salvator’s Quad, North Street, St Andrews on Friday 21 May.  Entry is free and open to the public.

ENDS

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk

Ref:  Arabian adventure

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