Simon West to Direct Antara, an Epic Warrior Tale of Freedom, Love and Poetry in Ancient Arabia, Filming in Saudi Arabia’s Neom

Simon West to Direct Antara, an Epic Warrior Tale of Freedom, Love and Poetry in Ancient Arabia, Filming in Saudi Arabia’s Neom


Renowned director Simon West, known for his work on blockbuster hits like Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and The Expendables 2, has announced his newest venture: a historical epic titled Antara. The film aims to bring to life the extraordinary story of Antara ibn Shaddad, a sixth-century slave who transcended his bondage to become a knight and one of ancient Arabia’s most celebrated poets.

Plot and Setting

Set against the visually arresting landscape of Neom, a futuristic $500 billion megacity in northwest Saudi Arabia, the film promises an authentic backdrop for this swords-and-sandals epic. Antara will be co-produced by Alexander Amartei and Stuart Sutherland of Celtic Arabia, who have previously co-produced films such as Killing Eve, Born A King, and The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Antara ibn Shaddad: The Heroic Poet of Ancient Arabia

Background and Early Life

Antara ibn Shaddad al-Absi, often called Antara, was born in the late 6th century in the Arabian Peninsula. He was the son of Shaddad, a nobleman of the Banu Abs tribe, and Zabiba, an Ethiopian slave woman. Due to his mother’s status, Antara was born into slavery despite his father’s nobility. This dual identity – being both a prince and a slave – greatly influenced his life and his poetry.

Life as a Warrior

Antara’s life was marked by courage, chivalry, and unparalleled combat skills. The tales of his valor on the battlefield are legendary. In one story, the Banu Abs tribe was threatened by a neighboring tribe. Antara emerged as a hero, defending his tribe and earning respect among his peers. Yet, despite his heroics, he remained a slave because of his maternal lineage. His feats on the battlefield and his demand for recognition and freedom are recurring themes in his poetry.

Romance with Abla

Antara’s love for Abla, his cousin, is one of the most famous love stories in Arab history. He passionately loved her but was initially deemed unworthy because of his status as a slave. This unrequited love became the subject of many of his poems. Eventually, after proving himself as a warrior and earning his freedom, he was united with Abla in marriage.

Significance in Arabian Literature

Antara’s poetry is among the “Mu’allaqat” – a collection of pre-Islamic Arabic poems considered among the best examples of classical Arabic verse. The poems, often called “The Hanging Poems,” were reportedly hung on or inside the Kaaba in Mecca due to their significance. Antara’s works touch upon themes of bravery, love, and the challenges of tribal life. His poetry stands out for its vivid imagery, powerful emotions, and a deep sense of justice.


Antara’s significance isn’t just in his prowess as a warrior or the depth of his poetic expressions. His life story epitomizes the human spirit’s resilience against societal biases and prejudice. Born a slave due to his mother’s lineage, he won his freedom and became one of the most celebrated figures in Arabian history.

His story serves as a reminder that personal worth isn’t determined by birth or societal status but by one’s actions and contributions. Today, Antara is celebrated as a symbol of love, bravery, and the quest for justice, and his legacy lives on, inspiring countless generations across the Arab world and beyond.

Production Details

The ambitious project will leverage the generous 40 percent cash rebate program offered by Neom’s burgeoning film industry, with a 12-week production cycle slated to begin in early 2024 at Bajdah Studios.

Director’s Vision

Simon West expressed his enthusiasm for the project, stating, “Bringing the legendary tale of Antara ibn Shaddad to a global audience is a monumental opportunity. Antara’s life is a striking example of how reality can often be more mesmerizing than fiction. Filming in the homeland of the Banu Abs tribe allows us to remain true to the source material while also contributing to the development of the region’s emerging film industry.”

Cultural Impact

Alexander Amartei highlighted the film’s potential to make a lasting impact, drawing comparisons to paradigm-shifting films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “Antara aspires to be a cultural milestone that revolutionizes the genre in a way that is both artistically lavish and culturally significant,” said Amartei.

Changing Landscape of Film Production in Saudi Arabia

Following the release of Gerard Butler’s Kandahar earlier this year and the forthcoming Desert Warrior directed by Rupert Wyatt, Antara marks another shift in Hollywood’s focus toward Saudi Arabia as an increasingly appealing filming destination. The kingdom is investing heavily to establish itself as a major player in the global film industry.

In Conclusion

As Hollywood productions gradually pivot towards new and exotic locations, Antara promises to be a visually spectacular film and a groundbreaking addition to the swords-and-sandals genre, chronicling an inspiring true story of freedom and artistic brilliance in ancient Arabia. With a seasoned director at the helm and an unprecedented locale, Antara stands poised to captivate global audiences while enriching the cultural tapestry of cinema.

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