Saudi filmmakers in the spotlight at LA festival

Young Saudi Film Festival panel discusses the upcoming production. (Photo courtesy: NYFA)
Updated 24 February 2018
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Saudi filmmakers in the spotlight at LA festival

JEDDAH: Six films from Saudi Arabia will headline the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, which opens in Los Angeles this week, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has announced.
The festival on Feb. 18 at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset Boulevard will also showcase two films from Egypt. The eight short films range from five to 20 minutes in length, and cover a wide range of genres, from comedies to dramas and family-friendly screenplays.
This year’s festival arrives as film enjoys a renaissance in the Kingdom, with the lifting of of a 35-year ban on cinemas, along with a multimillion-dollar contract with the cinema corporation Vue International to open more than 35 cinemas in the Kingdom, the first to begin screenings later this year. This, together with the conclusion of the 11th annual Asian Film Festival held in Jeddah this month, has inspired Saudis to pursue filmmaking ideas within the Arab world and abroad.
Young Saudi Film Festival (YSFF) President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi highlighted the difficulties young Saudis faced attempting to break into the film industry. “Last year Saudi filmmakers didn’t have any theaters where they could show their films and creative productions. With hope and consistent effort, cinema is now back again in Saudi Arabia.
“Our goal since Abdul Aziz Al-Mutari and I started YSFF was to have a platform to link filmmakers to each other so they can exchange experiences, knowledge, and connections,” he said. “It’s going to be the same case this year. We had an impressive variety of films submitted from around the world, and we congratulate all the filmmakers. It was very challenging for our selection committee to choose only eight films.”
Director of NYFA’s Los Angeles campus Dan Mackler said: “As an international film school and home to many Saudi Arabian alumni and students, the New York Film Academy is very happy with Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen theaters. We share Rakan’s excitement for this second event and expect it to surpass last year’s impact on bringing talented filmmakers to light.”
Along with the films, the festival will show a congratulatory video by Saudi Arabian actor Nasser Al-Gassaby, as well as an original performance piece by the renowned NYFA improv troupe. The festival will conclude with a question-and-answer session moderated by YSFF host Maan bin Abdulrahman.
Dean of enrolment services for NYFA Tami Alexander said aspiring Saudi musicians and filmmakers deserved support. “We are very proud that NYFA alumni and students are leading the media and entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia. We support Rakan and Abdul Aziz’s vision for the Young Saudi Film Festival and are happy to sponsor the festival in Los Angeles. After the announcement that cinemas will be allowed in the Kingdom again, I could not be more thrilled,” she said.
Alexander said that since 2011 NYFA had been encouraging Saudi visual and performing artists to study at the academy. “The Young Saudi Film Festival is a time to celebrate our current students and alumni, and an opportunity for the entire community to support local artists and cinema in Saudi Arabia and the GCC,” she said.
NYFA graduate Mohamed Al-Yamani, director and writer of “Hero Complex,” which will be shown at the festival, said: “This is a great way to showcase our talents as upcoming filmmakers to our peers and future work associates. I’m delighted to see the NYFA is investing in the Saudi filmmaking community.”
The short films screening at this year’s festival are: “Bloodline,” written and directed by Saud Al-Moghirah, produced by Javier Olmo; “Eternity,” written and directed by Mohamed Makki, produced by Mohamed Makki and Mohamed Obaidullah; “Hero Complex,” written and directed by Mohamed Al-Yamani, produced by Mohamed Al-Yamani and Douglas Spain; “The Nostalgia,” written by Sarah Lotfy, directed and produced by Moataz Badran; “Piece of Wood,” by Yassin Koptan; “The Scapegoat,” written by Charlie Millen and Stephen Ranieri, directed by Talha B., produced by Maan B; “Spirit of North,” by Mohamed Ali Al-Marhabi; “Under Concrete,” by Meshal Al-Jaser.


Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 16 June 2019
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Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.