“Roll’em” is a Saudi Arabian film set in the city of Jeddah on the country’s western coast. It centers on Omar Nizar’s decision to pursue his desire to direct films and work as an ad executive while looking for someone who believes in his principles and cinematic brilliance. He and his girlfriend, Lina, are deeply in love, but fate has other plans for both of them.
Omar Nizar works as a director for an ad agency, and his best friend Mohannad is trying to gain a customer so they can pay their expenses for the company. The client’s primary requirements for his ad campaign are to include a commercial element while displaying footage of old Jeddah. Omar is given the same duty, but he must first acquire the client’s trust. When things don’t go his way, Omar contemplates following his passion in a different way.
Omar and Lina have a strong bond. Lina’s parents, on the other hand, are against their marriage. They are unable to marry as a result of this. Lina, on the other hand, sticks by Omar through thick and thin. She admits to Omar that she is becoming bored of the same old thing and that they should take a break. This irritates them both greatly, but they agree to it.
While Mohannad looks for a new customer, Omar has a confrontation with an official after a complaint is made to him about women not wearing abayas (veils that cover the hair of women) during the shoot. This puts him in a pickle, and he’s hauled to the police station to be interrogated further. His father is there at the station and he insists that his son apologizes to the officer. Omar is released after doing so. This irritates him greatly, and he returns to the workplace to deal with additional drama involving a new client. He hides for a while, till the client leaves and goes about his business.
Mohannad tries to persuade Omar to begin with the proposal they’ve received, but he refuses. He discovers an ancient store with two of his buddies, where an old guy keeps antique goods. Farid, a retired cinematographer, is the owner of the store that he encounters. After some polite conversation and his friends buying some vinyl records, Omar and his companions leave, eager to return. Omar, on the other hand, does not forget the location.
Omar is in a bind to finish the film because he doesn’t have a notion to work with. His colleague advises him to take his time but to keep thinking about it until he discovers something. She recommends going back to the store where they went earlier to look at the old vinyl albums. He returns to Farid and speaks with him. When it comes to providing footage of old Jeddah for Omar to use in a customer pitch, Farid comes through for him. When Farid hands over the photos, Omar learns that Farid was a great cinematographer, who’s contribution to art never came into the limelight. He feels relieved that he might have discovered a mentor.
When Omar goes to the firm with his proposal prepared, and the customer does not completely appreciate it, things take a drastically different turn. When his dissatisfaction with the client and his supervisor, Mohannad, reaches a breaking point, Omar storms out of the office, packing his belongings and announcing his resignation. After a couple of days, his sister and family come to check on him on his birthday and remind him that he’d do better for himself and that this is not the end.
At the conclusion, we see Omar run into his ex-girlfriend from the United States at a supermarket shop. They say their final goodbyes, and Omar finds new meaning in his career as a cinematographer. “Roll’em” continues with Omar’s voyage when Farid helps rehabilitate Omar’s passion towards making film and finding an inner balance between Omar’s principles and the government’s law regarding film.
Director Abdulelah Alqurashi collaborates with writer Yassan Hammad on an art-house drama film, “Roll’em” for Netflix that touches on the importance of cinema in a city like Jeddah. Bringing back historical stories and what some may refer to as the “good old days” for the locals. The film’s characters offer a contemporary viewpoint on how the medium of film has progressed and the need for countries in the Gulf to catch up.
The countries in the Gulf have always been hesitant to use the power of the media. The current laws of the countries in the gulf are not completely forthcoming to the idea of how progressive film can be for a culturally rich culture that the Arabs have today. The film portrays that wearing a burqa (veil) in a shoot is customary of the prevalent law in the country. Omar does not have any objections to whether it is worn or not and that is what gets him into trouble. The westernization of cinema within the eastern countries creates a stark cinematic difference of cultures.
It’s inspiring to hear about how cinema still has a long way to go, even though film mavericks like Farid still reside in the Gulf. There is a cinematic treasure hidden someplace in the mound of hardbound laws of the Gulf that the world may never see. “Roll’em” is set at a leisurely pace for everybody to enjoy, and is therefore recommended for all art aficionados.
“Roll’em” is a 2019 Art House Drama film directed by Abdulelah Alqurashi.