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 MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

Updated 18 June 2018
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Saudi MERS outbreaks killed 23 over four months: WHO

  • The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia
  • The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease

GENEVA: Outbreaks of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) killed 23 people in Saudi Arabia between Jan. 21 and May 31 this year, the World Health Organization said on Monday.
The deaths were among 75 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) during the period, the WHO said, and take the total number of deaths from the disease to 790 since it was first diagnosed in humans in 2012.
The latest figures take the number of confirmed cases to 2,220 since September 2012, including 1,844 from Saudi Arabia.
One outbreak in February hit a private hospital in Hafer Albatin region, where the patient passed the disease to three health workers. There was another cluster of six cases in a hospital in Riyadh in the same month, although no health care workers were infected.
Two other clusters affected households in Jeddah and Najran.
MERS-CoV is a member of a virus family ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. It appears to have emerged in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012, although it has been traced in camels, the source of the infection, back to at least 1983.
The disease is hard to spot, partly because it often infects people with an underlying condition such as diabetes, renal failure or chronic lung disease.
But it kills one in three sufferers, and hospital workers are at risk unless extreme caution is taken to identify MERS sufferers early and to protect health care workers from infection via airborne droplets such as from coughs and sneezes.
Susceptible people should avoid contact with suspected cases and with camels, and anyone who has contact with animals should wash their hands before and afterwards, the WHO said. Everyone should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating undercooked meat.
Three MERS cases have been reported this year outside Saudi Arabia. Oman and the United Arab Emirates each reported a case, while in Malaysia a man fell ill after drinking unpasteurised camel milk during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.