Dunya’s Day: An Oscar worthy short film from director Raed Alsemari

Whether it’s your birthday party, wedding reception or graduation celebration, you want your special day to be unforgettable. You want the best food, the most exquisite drinks, a wonderful dress and your friends and family around. Or at least if you’re Dunya, the leading character in “Dunya’s Day”. This latest work from first-time writer/director Raed Alsemari tells her story cleverly and amusingly and this results in a delightful, colourful and well-performed short movie.

It’s a celebration day for Dunya (Sara Balghonaim). She just graduated and wants to celebrate that in the biggest and more striking way possible. Luckily for her, she has household help available. Dunya orders them to clean, cook and even slaughter animal to get the best meat possible. However, the help is getting sick of Dunya her harsh, difficult and inhumane requests. They’re about to abandon her. Which impact will this have on Dunya’s big day and most importantly on her reputation that she wants to uphold?

“Dunya’s Day” was already screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival this year where it was already nominated in multiple ‘short movies’ categories. It’s very understandable as this movie from Alsemari has many delightful elements to offer.

First of all, it’s the stunning cinematography that brings out the spectacular setting. The film is set in Riyadh and thanks to Olivier Theurillat (“Stopwatch”, “Teoría de cuerdas”) the wonderous world of Saudi Arabia is coming to life on screen. Whether it’s inside of the gorgeous residence of Dunya, the ideal ceremonial place or the Saudi Arabian nature, his wide shots bring out the colours and vividness of the setting.

Secondly, it’s also the multi-coloured and quirky costumes chosen by costume designer Lamya AlHazani that make this film such an appealing one. Throughout the entire movie, Dunya is wearing a very princessy red ball gown while her maids are wearing light blue aprons. Pretty sure that the guests who are invited to the wonderful evening will be dressed as colourful and mesmerizing as Dunya herself.

Of course, a great film wouldn’t be anything without splendid performances. To bring this unique idea to life, Alsemari really could count on very talented women with Balghonaim (“Munukeer”) as the front runner. When we hear Dunya screaming for her help, we can feel the agony, anger, and desperation because she can’t seem to find them. Thanks to Balghonaim her captivating and gorgeous performance, we can both discover the bossy and demanding side of Dunya but also her more vulnerable and emotional one.

When organizing a party, you always hope that it will go ahead a planned but sadly that might not be the case for Dunya as her story is more of a dark comedy. One that’s being brought perfectly by the immensely talented crew and striking performances from the the gifted cast. “Dunya’s Day” is certainly a very successful first short movie from Alsemari that’s for sure.

Liselotte Vanophem


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