“The Falconer” (2022) is the first international feature film shot entirely in Oman. This drama based on a true story was filmed in both Arabic and English and took place on the outskirts of the city of Muscat. It managed to screen in more than twenty international festivals and received the award for “Best Premiere” at the Heartland International Film Festival in Indianapolis.
The film was co-directed by Adam Sjöberg and Seanne Winslow: Sjöberg is known for the documentary “Shake the Dust”, filmed in Yemen, and Winslow for being part of the production of “Lego The Movie”. Both directors were interested in depicting friendship and multicultural nuances in film, as both have spent their lives living and traveling in different parts of the world.
“The Falconer” stars Rami Zahar, Rupert Fennessy , and Noor Al Huda, and tells the story of two friends, Cai and Tariq, who work in a zoo and deal in black market of animals. Although they live in the same village, they face very different realities. Tariq comes from a poor family who had to give up his studies to work and help his family. Cai, on the other hand, is a wealthy white Western boy who has a choice of universities in other countries to pursue his dreams.
The plot revolves around the moral dilemma of selling animals in juxtaposition to the needs of one of them. The friendship between Cai and Tariq will be tested when they must raise money for Tariq’s sister to pay for her divorce. In this sense, the bond between the falcon and the falconer symbolizes the tension between freedom and constraint that plays out in different ways in the friendship relationship between the boys.
In addition to the central plot, “The Falconer” stands out for the cinematography by Nicholas Bupp who made sure to capture the beauty of the waters and rocky hills of Oman using with natural light. Without any effects, the film captures the subtleties of everyday life in a village far from the center of Muscat, such as the buzzing of bees, people dancing at a wedding, or children talking. With this point of view, the filmmakers seek to move away from the stereotypical Western productions of the Middle East, usually portrayed as a scary or exotic place.
Muscat is an ideal location for filming, as it is the capital of Oman. From tourist attractions in the city center to small outlying villages, the landscape and culture of Muscat are unique and this is reflected in “The Falconer”. With a population of nearly 800,000 and located on the coast of the Arabian Sea in the middle of the Gulf of Oman, Muscat is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in the Middle East.
A former Persian, Portuguese, Turkish, and even Spanish possession, the history of Muscat has developed around its port and important geographical position, halfway between the countries of the Persian Gulf, Iran, India, and East Africa. This city has managed to maintain a balance between modernity and tradition, combining new infrastructures with the charm of an ancient city.
Muscat is a city organized into neighborhoods and with a very long coastline known for its turquoise waters and white sand. It is a quiet island where dizzying mountains, movie-like oases and one of the most pristine deserts on the planet also coexist. Wedged between the sea and the mountains, today it is today a fascinating city eager to open up to the world, as it was closed by the gates of its wall until 50 years ago. As a result, Oman lived most of the 20th century as if it were still in the Middle Ages.
Muscat is also one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world. Perfectly maintained highways, lavish buildings, and decorative lighting in the city center give way to the old houses with a French flair, the narrow streets, and the souk, the typical markets of the Arabian countries. A curious fact: it is believed that Sinbad the Sailor was born in Muscat.
Another of the city’s landmarks is the Great Mosque of Sultan Qaboos, with a chandelier of Swarovski crystals weighing 8.5 tons and the largest Persian carpet in the world (4,000 square meters and hand-woven for 24 years), until that of Abu Dhabi, now number one. In total, it can accommodate some 20,000 worshippers, with the main prayer hall alone holding some 6,500 people.
About the experience of filming in Oman, the directors of “The Falconer” commented in an interview for Adelante Magazine that it was a dream come true. They also commented: “The country and artistic community welcomed us with open arms and were incredible collaborators. As outsiders, it was very important to us that we made a film that was not just about Oman but was from Oman”. For them, the important thing was to portray local life, so they decided to shoot in a small village on the outskirts of Muscat. For that, the filmmakers commented that they “worked closely with a local shepherd and a whole host of other men and women to help get the cultural aspects of the story right”.
That said, Oman is a country that presents a great variety of locations for filming. Despite being the size of Italy and home to 4.6 million people, it is still considered one of the great unknowns of the region. For its part, Muscat is a paradisiacal combination of mountains and turquoise sea. In addition to its beauty, the friendly and hospitable population makes this place worth visiting. “The Falconer” escapes from the most common representations of Oman and shows us life in a village far from the fortresses and luxury.
Shooting in Oman completely elevated our production experience and gave us a rich community of local partners, artists, and actors to work with. The landscapes are stunning and the film resources made shooting there an absolute dream. I can’t wait to bring another film to Oman.David Jacobson
Producer The Falconer