Bader Al-Humoud Presents The Undying Hero
23 October 2018
Bader Alhumoud is a Saudi director, scenarist and executive director of “Be Films”. He produced a number of short films and TV commercials such as “Monopoly”, “Daken” and “Pen of Mirrors”. His films received many awards from “Gulf Film Festival”, “Abu Dhabi Film Festival” and “Saudi Film Festival”. Alhumoud participated in “TANWEEN” event, which took place in the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on October 19, 2018, with a lecture titled “A Hero that Never Dies”. In the lecture, he spoke about movie characters, whether super heroes or super-villains, and the reasons that make the characters unforgettable. Moreover, he talked about the factors that influence the viewer and shape his stance and perspective. Then, he talked about the traits that make his heroes characters “undying” and unforgettable.
In the beginning of the lecture, Alhumoud talked about an ancient story that took place in Rome, where people woke up one day to find a huge statue of “Zeus,” the King of all Gods, destroyed. A few days later, the same thing happened to the rest of the Gods’ statues. The search for the perpetrator went on without success for a while, then, he surrendered. When asked if he knew what will happen to him, he answered “yes.” So they asked him why he committed a crime that is punishable by death, he answered “I’m no one, I’m unknown. I never did anything of any value or impact. I was scared I’ll be forgotten once I die. Death only happens to those who will not be remembered after it. And to be immortal, dying was a cheap price to pay.” Alhomoud indicated that the story represents the longing for immortality and fame. Some people try to reach this immortality through doing heroic acts, but some will do anything, even if it is reprehensible, to achieve it. He said that the reason we enjoy legendary tales and cinema films is because it comforts us, who live ordinary lives, and touch upon our desire to be heroes.
Alhomoud then listed the characteristics that make cinema and TV protagonists memorable. One characteristic is powerlessness, or coming from a cruel background, like a child that won a race with ripped shoes because his father can’t buy him new ones, in comparison to a child from a wealthy background. We would easily forget the last one, but not the first, because he got our sympathy and interest. Having a hard life and coming from a poor or weak background does the same to us. An example of this character is “Walter White” in “Breaking Bad”. In the minds of the viewers, he’s remembered as a brilliant and frustrated chemistry teacher who is later diagnosed with cancer, which causes him to start a drugs trade in order to ensure’s his family’s future. In fighting his unjust circumstances, we are compelled to sympathize with him for humane reasons, unlike “Superman” who has superpowers that helps him solve his issues and overcome any hardships facing him, and so, we don’t feel any emotional connection with him.
Afterwards, Alhumoud talked about yet another characteristic of the “undying” hero, which is “shinning in the bad day," like the day “Batman” saw a thief murder his parents with cold blood, which drove him to become a hero and fight crime; or like the day “the Joker” went home to find his pregnant wife dead while he was at work.. making people laugh. Knowing he could have saved her from that death, the Joker’s character was born on that ominous day. Another characteristic is a strong will that is not accompanied by a clear objective. An example of this is “Jon Snow” in “Game of Thrones,” who never wanted to be a king, and only cared to fight the stigma of being an illegitimate child (born out of wedlock), but became king because of his well-intentions and his help and support of the people around him, which made him a legend, and helped him find a purpose in life.
The speaker also mentioned that his favorite hero or super-villain is always angry and mysterious, so that people’s curiosity will get them to be interested and try to unfold the truth behind this character. He used “the Joker” as an example again, because he is his favorite villain. He said in one of his films “to be both loved and feared, that is greatness.” What made this character this successful is not telling its secrets and confusing the viewer’s view of the its intentions and end-goals. The last characteristic of the “undying” hero is its growth and development, which makes it a multi-dimension character, that could seem evil on the outside while hiding its goodness, such as “Jaime Lannister” from “Game of Thrones,” who starts as an evil and detested person, but changes later and becomes a well-loved character.
Concluding his lecture, Alhumoud pointed out that a reason we get attached to characters is our belief that they could actually exist. This belief could lead us to see ourselves in those characters, understand them and their tendencies and perspectives, and therefore, sympathize with them. This is specially the case when the character brings to our attention the hideousness and injustice in the world, in a manner that makes us question the point of sticking to our principles. According to Alhumoud, one of the greatest missions of art is to discipline our wild or barbaric leanings.