DJEDDAH: Under the theme of “Desert Cinema”, the seventh edition of the Saudi Film Festival (SFF) has placed Saudi and international filmmakers at the forefront.
Organized at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in partnership with the Saudi Society for Culture and Art (SASCA) of Dammam, the event features 57 films, of which 36 were produced by Saudi filmmakers and 21 from the CCG. .
Majid Samman, head of performance arts and film at Ithra, told Arab News that opportunities in the film industry in Saudi Arabia are booming, especially with the arrival of cinema and movie theaters, a radical departure from when YouTube was the platform of choice. presenting movies, a hobby that few thought could be a lucrative business.
“Today we are trying to make people understand that they can really become professionals in the film industry and that they make a living from it.”
In previous cycles of the festival, Ithra has produced more than 20 films, all directed by Saudi directors, earning her 15 national and international awards. Ithra has also supported the funding and education of filmmakers through several related workshops.
Samman added, “We thought we would elevate Saudi talent from what they do now to higher standards, so that we can at least export this globally.”
The Saudi Film Festival shines a light on desert cinema in an interactive work inspired by the Tuwaiq Mountains, in addition to a soon to be published book titled “Cinema, the Desert and its Guide”, which includes research, articles and studies.
Along with the festival, three desert-themed seminars were presented on desert literature, poems, culture and films that were filmed in the deserts. One of the seminars was presented by Moath Alofi, a well-known Saudi explorer and artist of the desert. Alofi shared his story of producing his desert-focused films. “I really wanted to tell people about the deserts of our Kingdom, the various places that are suitable for filming and how young directors can get brilliant results from them that will add a lot to their work.”
Alofi said: “Keep in mind that you have to respect the nature of the desert and deal with it with caution.”
Ithra embraces Saudi talents and helps them grow.
Ashraf Faqeeh, head of Ithra programs, said the center aspires to promote cinema and work towards developing an environment where talent can be discovered, developed and compete.
“For the very first time, we have cinematic markets on the market, so anyone who has a project, idea or script is being presented to a number of the best filmmakers. We have 24 film production entities nationally, regionally and internationally, ”Faqeeh added.
He said that Ithra is Saudi Arabia’s largest film producer in terms of the number and quality of films produced. “It’s not about giving away prices, but rather proving ourselves in the market.”
The Saudi creative leap of faith has grown rapidly through various themes that showcase culture and originality.
The Arabic feature film “Forty Years and One Night” premiered at the Malmö Arab Film Festival in Sweden and has been translated into English. It was also screened at the Saudi Cinema Night organized by the Red Sea Film Festival.
Saudi director Mohammed Al-Hullail told Arab News: “It took us almost three years to develop the film. I have worked on many short films, but the one presented here at this festival is my very first long film experience to come. The shooting was very difficult and it helped me to engage with very experienced directors and filmmakers. “
He added, “This festival has supported the film industry in Saudi Arabia and such initiatives are greatly appreciated. “
Al-Hullail has always been keen to participate in every round of the SFF since 2015, and describes his debut in the festival in small steps that hold a special place in his heart.
On July 7, the film festival will celebrate the winners of the best feature and short films, as well as the best actors and actresses.
The seven-day festival aims to raise the level of competitiveness and productivity of filmmakers, as films compete for the Golden Palm Prize, with financial prizes starting at SR 75,000 ($ 20,000).
Faqeeh said: “The Saudi Film Festival is like the Saudi Oscars to us, and we are more than excited to be a part of it.”
In 2017, an event called Josoor, which translates to bridges, was launched by Ithra to promote Saudi talent in different disciplines including comedy, cooking, scientific research and filmmaking in 40 US cities.