DJEDDAH: A short film showcasing some of the culinary delights for which the Al-Ahsa region of Saudi Arabia is famous was awarded with an award at a prestigious international event.
“Taste of Al-Ahsa” was named best food film in the potential global region at the Food Film Menu 2021 event of the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism.
The film showcases many of the attractions and traditions associated with eating Al-Ahsa in its span of just over a minute, including authentic traditional Hassaoui dishes and dates freshly picked in the oases of the region. It also features traditional music and dance as well as local arts and crafts, such as the making of bisht (a traditional Arabian coat for men).
The film is one of five films in a series called “The Senses of Saudi Arabia”, each of which explores a place in the kingdom as experienced by one of the five senses. The others focus on Jeddah, Najd, Tabouk and Jazan.
Al-Ahsa’s film aims to capture the essence, spirit and beauty of a region known for its rich cultural heritage dating back centuries, including culinary traditions influenced by years of migration that have created unique local cuisines.
Traditional farming techniques are also featured in the film, which aims to showcase the region as a destination for tourists interested in culinary traditions and culinary experiences.
The Saudi Tourism Association came up with the idea for the promotional film series in collaboration with Merak, a media and production company with a team of Saudi creative minds headed by Ali Al-Rashidi.
Speaking about the idea behind Al-Ahsa’s film, he told Arab News: “It’s unique and it highlights many important cultural aspects and Saudi historical heritage, including the true taste of the food and flavors of Al-Ahsa, in one minute. “
The team that made the film said that with just 12 days to shoot it, they were faced with a difficult task as there were so many options to include and they wanted to share as many as possible with the world.
“Al-Ahsa has a vibrant and versatile culture for tourists to have the full experience, from its distinctive traditional flavors to its prominent palm trees and agricultural paradise nature,” said Creative Director Ahmad Eid.
The film’s soundtrack features Hassaoui farmers singing a celebratory folk song after a successful harvest season. Eid said the music is an inherited part of the Hassaoui heritage of “Daq Al-Hab”, which translates into English as “grinding beans”.
Mohammed Al-Juraibi, the film’s music producer, told Arab News: “After the harvest season, Hassaoui farmers start to crush and grind the bean crop using a wooden stick in the shape of a tree. branch to transform them into flour and other products. During this process, farmers traditionally sing a rhyming rhythm of folk songs until they finish.
Majeed Hattaf, “Senses of Saudi Arabia” series producer, said it had been difficult to assemble a team capable of combining Al-Ahsa’s film visuals with creative music production to create a distinctive audio identity for the region.
“The most important aspect of this movie is the music, in my opinion,” he added. “The sound of each scene creates an artistic scene that arouses emotions. “
He added that the production of all five films took around three months, but that this timeline does not fully reflect the enormous amount of effort put into the process.
For example, finding locations with the specific flowers and crops he wanted to feature in Al-Ahsa’s film, such as okra, onions, and sunflowers, was a challenge as they grow at different times of the year. . But they were essential in conveying the character of the region.
“Food is not only considered nutrition for the people of Al-Ahsa, but rather constitutes their festive gastronomic culture,” Eid said.
The film highlights some of the traditional dishes unique to Al-Ahsa, including a rice dish called kabsa hasawiya, and a crisp, thin sweet bread served as a cracker with tea.
“We brought out khobz alhamar, or red bread, which is one of the most famous Hassaoui foods still found and cooked in traditional bakeries,” Eid said. “The bread is red because the date paste is added. Plus… sunflower seeds are featured as a popular healthy snack from Hasawi. “
In addition to traditional Hassaoui dishes and delicacies, the film also highlights practitioners of traditional Al-Ahsa crafts, including tailors who make bishts and silversmiths who create jewelry.
“We really got the warm feeling that this film conveys to viewers during filming, as the Hassawis are known for giving their guests a warm welcome,” Eid said.
“The kindness of the people was a great asset to this film. It wasn’t the producers who did it well enough to win an award, but rather the people of this region who showed who they are by being themselves in front of the cameras.