Saad Al-Fraih is the pioneer of Saudi drama – thought and art – mirrors


On the third of June this year, the fifteenth anniversary of the death of one of the knights of directing and TV production in the Arab Gulf region came, but rather one of the sons of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who made their way to achieving their goals with self-determination, perseverance and unique effort, without losing their resolve the difficulties and obstacles of the era that lived In which.

This is an opportunity to remember and remind others also of the bright history and fragrant biography of the director and TV producer Saad Al-Freih, may God have mercy on him, who is considered the first to establish for Saudi directors the field of television work in a time when programs and dramas were made with non-Saudi hands, and the first to invest what he studied in the West from The arts of directing and producing in training and qualifying a group of local national cadres to tackle TV technical and artistic work, so he has the right to be described as “the pioneer of Saudi drama and the first Saudi director.”

Birth and upbringing

Saad bin Farih bin Muhammad Al-Afnan Al-Tamimi, known as “Saad Al-Farih”, was born on the twenty-fifth of November 1940, in the village of Al-Sabaan, south of the city of Hail in the north of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to a father who was practicing farming and palm cultivation. He grew up between the villages of Al-Sabaan and the city of Hail, assisting his father in farming and irrigation work, while continuing his primary and intermediate studies.

Al-Fraih finished middle school at the age of fifteen, and began to think like other peers at that time to enter the labor market instead of continuing his studies, where the certificate of completion of the junior high school was ringing at the time and open the doors of work easily to the holder. What happened at the time was that the Arab American Oil Company (Aramco) had opened its doors to employ Saudi citizens in its business areas in the eastern region with remunerative salaries (by the standards of that time), in addition to teaching and training them.

This news reached the ears of Al-Fraih and fueled his youth ambitions, but what was more pleased by the image that his relatives were conveying about the modern open life in the oil cities, and the joys and entertainment it embraced, especially cinema and television. The relatives of Al-Fraih had joined Aramco, their conditions improved and their living conditions increased, and whenever they returned to Hail on their annual or seasonal holidays, they published stories about the nature of their new lives in the east of the country and what they learned and experienced.

Adventure and experience

The truth is that these stories occupied Al-Fraih’s thinking for some time, and then he and a group of his young friends decided to try their fortunes in Aramco, as long as the doors of work are lawful, let alone have a degree of education.

Thus began the adventure of the Freeh towards the east coast of his homeland, a young man brimming with ambition, hope, determination and will. Access to Dhahran was not an easy process in those days. The roads are rough and regular transportation is almost non-existent, and the dangers of passing desert separators are many.

However, all this did not prevent him from taking the adventure, and he arrived in Dhahran with his companions – among them was Hazza bin Ghanem Al-Shammari, who later became a civilian pilot and then an assistant general manager for Saudi Airlines air operations – after an arduous journey that took nearly three days. The first thing that they asked him to hire in Aramco was to show his Saudi identity, or what was known at the time in the subsidiary book (Hafida Al Noufous).

And because he did not possess this document, he was forced to extract it from the Status Department in Dammam, which used to attach the names of its applicants to surnames derived from their regions. Since he was from Hail, and since Hail is known as the Shamar tribe and mountain, they wrote his name in the identity document, “Saad Al-Shammari.” Al-Fraih may have said to himself at the time: “Saad Al-Farih or Saad Al-Shammari are both acceptable … There are many names and one person … The important thing is to employ and reach the goal that I came for.”

Language learning

The phrase said that Al-Fraih managed to break into Aramco Castle, which he completed his studies in its schools and learned the English language, to be appointed in it after that as a reporter between the laboratories and clinics, to transfer between them the samples of the tests, then he was soon transferred to the job of a driver of the ambulance of the company’s health complex in Dhahran, From the latter to a position in the reception desk for patients and reviewers before referring them to specialized doctors. Meanwhile, his only hobby was watching Egyptian films and American series, which were broadcast by Aramco TV station from Dhahran. That station, which started broadcasting in September 1957, was the second Arabic-speaking television station throughout the Middle East region, after the Iraqi TV from Baghdad.

What happened after that, Aramco TV, which took it upon itself to educate the community on matters of occupational safety, environmental health, sound leadership, etc., was in the process of producing health education programs, and it needed the help of Aramco’s health department to facilitate the procedures and locations of photography.

Here his American director entrusted him with accompanying the TV mission throughout the filming period and overcoming any obstacles in front of it, so Al-Fraih did what was entrusted to him for the best of standing. And when he finished his mission, he sat thinking about what happened while he was in a state of amazement and amazement with what he saw of the huge cameras and the ways of managing them and directing their lights. The event was a turning point in his life, which led him quickly to address his American director in order to mediate for him to transfer his services from the Department of Health to the Department of Public Relations, which was followed by Aramco TV.

Indeed, the American responded to his request and mediated to him at the then TV director, the late Saleh Al-Muzaini, who did not mind joining Al-Freih to the group of Saudis working on the station at the time, such as Jamil Hattab, Fahmi Youssef Basrawi, Othman Al-Warthan, Jarallah Al-Tamimi, Nabeel Ibrahim Al-Bassam, Mahmoud Issa Al-Mashhadi and Abdullah Yousef Al-Hussaini, in addition to Bahrainis Issa Jassim Al-Jowder and Ahmed Rashid Al-Absi.

Intensive training

In the modest Aramco TV station building inside the walls of the oil company in Dhahran, Al-Fraih received extensive training over a year among a group of qualified citizens and a number of Arab expatriates such as Yaqoub Salam, Zakaria Al-Banna and Muhammad Al-Bitar who were providing educational, educational and entertainment programs via live broadcast – because the tapes The video is not yet known – in addition to dubbing foreign films and series from English to Arabic.

During that time, Al-Freih directed a group of programs engraved in the memory of Aramco TV viewers from the 1950s and 1960s. Among these programs: The Health Program, presented by Abdullah Al-Husseini; Book Corner, presented by Attorney Ismail Al-Nader, the cultural match between the three regions, presented by Fahmy Basrawi, a cup of coffee by Mohamed Abdel Wahab Salama, in addition to the evening program that hosted the celebrities and sheds light on their lives.

The second articular turning point in the life of Al-Fraih was in 1964, which witnessed the pledge of allegiance to King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, may God have mercy on him, as the king of the country, succeeding his brother King Saud bin Abdulaziz, may God Almighty have mercy on him. During the reign of Al-Faisal, the launch of the official TV channel of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was announced.

Because Al-Fraih was at that time one of the few Saudis who had experience in the field of television because of his work on Aramco TV station, then Minister of Information Sheikh Jamil Al-Hujailan agreed to appoint him to his ministry, and was even entrusted with him to work with the director of the official television construction project, representative of NBC International Frank Warren.

Soon, his new work resulted in his dispatch in November 1964 to the United States of America as part of the first batch of young Saudi TV scholars who were to be dispatched there to further specialization in the arts and techniques of production and television directing.

Cinematic masterpieces

Thus, Al-Fraih came for the first time in the country of cinematic and television masterpieces accompanied by a number of ambitious Saudi youth such as Nihad Abdul Qadir Idris, Muhammad Al-Fuhaid, Muhammad Al-Darab, Jasser Al-Jasser, Saleh Al-Hamdan, Ibrahim Al-Nafisa, and others.

There, our friend first joined the institute of RCA, known in New York City, from which he obtained a diploma in production and directing, then spent three months at the Dramatic Workshop Institute in the city itself taught by his dean of drama arts, knowing that this institute was founded in 1940 by the German immigrant Aaron Pescator was one of the actors who studied Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthew, and other Hollywood celebrities, as well as playwright Tennessee Williams.

After that, Al-Faraih joined Antioch Yallow Espering College, Ohio, where he not only studied in this prestigious college that started its work in 1852 theater and theater production, but also acted in the play “Captain Brass Bond” by George Bernard Shaw, and the play “Tame the Tigress”. »William Shakespeare.

In 1968, he traveled to Britain, where he spent three months in an advanced course in television and film production at BBC. However, he was not satisfied with all of the above, so he returned to the United States in 1971 to take another course in television production at Syracuse University in New York State.

The first charade

In the mid-sixties, Saudi television used Al-Faraih to contribute to his work, and in 1966 he directed his first act, which was titled “The Clinic” starring comedian artists Hassan Dardir and Lotfi Zaini. In the same year, he directed his first cinema clip for the artist Mohammed Abdo in the song “Habibi Marni in Jeddah” Then, in 1967, he directed his first play, entitled “I am your brother Amin”, written by the artist Talal Maddah and represented by Darder and Zinni. He also directed his first cinematic film with a 16 mm camera, which is a movie “Reprimanding Conscience” starring Hassan Dardeer.

. Later on, he directed to Saudi TV the first episodes of “The TV Theater” in which singers such as: Talal Maddah, Muhammad Abdo and Omar Kadras, Abu Bakr Salem Balfakih, Abadi Al-Johar, and Mahmoud Halwani, among others, appeared for the first time on the silver screen. Al-Fraih also worked in a later period as an assistant to the talented Saudi director Suleiman Ibrahim Al-Thunayan, who had studied directing, theater and design in Germany, France and Britain, in directing the series “The Lost Proof”, citing his story about the novel “The Bread Seller” by French writer Xavier Dumontban, which was completed in 1972 Prepared by Mohammed Al-Tamimi and represented by Abdul Rahman Al-Khuraiji. After that something disturbed Al-Freih, he decided to leave his homeland and go to London out of immigration, and he did so.

In the British capital, he spent nearly five years, during which he joined the BBC. It happened during that period that Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz (then Minister of the Interior) visited London, accompanied by his brother Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (then Prince of Riyadh), and they met Al-Freih and persuaded him to return to his homeland and continue his work on the official television set.

Intense activity

The period following his return and re-enrollment in Saudi television witnessed an intense activity that resulted in him producing documentary cinematographic films on Saudi Arabia through moving between its regions and photographing the most important features and aspects of life in them (among them was the movie “Al-Ghaith and Al-Layth” written by the poet Mohammed bin Uthaymeen; and the film “Nafhat” Shaza is a fragrance from the epic of Eid Al-Riyadh, written by the poet Paul Salama, and the movie “Names in Memory … This is Abdul Aziz” (Authorship and Vision). However, the unfortunate thing is that Al-Fraih went after completing the filming work to Lebanon to develop his films there at one of the factories due to the lack of acidification laboratories in Saudi Arabia, so if the Lebanese civil war breaks out and destroys the factory of acidification deposited with the films, which made our friend return to his country hands-free, to work In a new project.

This new project was nothing but filming the episodes of the distinguished cultural program “The Word Knocks an Hour”, prepared and presented by the well-known writer, intellectual and media, Mr. Muhammad Reda Nasrallah, whom the Ministry of Information had then commissioned to present a distinguished dialogue program that would raise the profile of Saudi TV and attract local and Arab viewers. Nasrallah stated in a television interview that he intentionally chose Saad Al-Fraih as a director and photographer for his program because of his conviction and belief in Al-Fraih’s talents, competence, and accuracy of his work.

Thus, Al-Fraih traveled with Nasrallah to Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco and other Arab countries to film dialogue shows with poets, writers, intellectuals, politicians and many Arab flags, in addition to photographing similar episodes with the thinkers and symbols of the homeland.

Patriotism and loyalty

The story of the death of Saad al-Farih, may God have mercy on him, so while it was sad, it is also a testament to the extent of his loyalty and dedication to his work, and his love for his country. In June 2006, he was assigned the general supervision of the operetta’s broadcast of a reception for the city of Hail for the first visit of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to the region after assuming power.

During the arrangements and equipment, he was exhausted by his continuous effort to create a perfect job, so he asked to go to his room to sleep and rest in the hope of returning to work quickly, but he went and did not return and his sleep on that day was his last sleep, as it proved that his heart muscle was subject to stress and suffered a heart attack that killed With his life. With this, the path of a great creative person was stopped, and everyone who knew him was a stand-alone directing school, and a rare example of a director who rejoices at the successes of others.

Help the artists

Which accounts for Al-Fraih that he took in the hands of many Saudi artists, most notably on the artistic scene such as: Saad Khidr, Muhammad Al-Ali, Abdullah Al-Sadhan, Bakr Al-Shadi, Ali Al-Huwairini. Likewise, the man contributed to the training of many Saudi technical cadres, who today became well-known names such as: Shalhoub Al-Shalhoub, Amer Al-Hamoud, Khaled Al-Tokhaim, Muhammad Al-Shaqawi, Saad Al-Wattlan, Mohammed Al-Otaibi, Nasser Al-Saqiya, and Abdul-Karim Al-Saif.


Saad Al-Fraih directed the television program “The Watchful Eyes”, whose logo later became a slogan for public security, and in 1983 he presented the Riyadh exhibition between yesterday and today in Germany, and in 1987 he produced the “Open Games” competitions program, adapted from the German “Tel Match” program, and directed The first monodramatic play by Nasser Al-Qasabi in 1984 entitled “Dream of Life”.

He was also chosen to direct two TV nights for the joint program production program for the Arab Gulf states in 1980: “No Banks” and “A Return Card from Exile”, knowing that he also directed another evening, entitled “Noura”, represented by Muhammad Al-Ali and Asmahan Tawfiq.

A page devoted to the social history of the Arabian Gulf region



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