What the future of Saudi Arabia’s film industry holds

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The Saudi Art Council, in collaboration with the American Film Showcase, brought together local and international experts on Monday to share their thoughts and opinions about what needs to be done for the Kingdom’s cinema industry.
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Filmmaker Anu Valia’s short film “Lucia, Before and After” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize for US fiction.
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The three experts openly shared their own experiences, both traumatic and successful, before mingling freely with the audience at the end of the discussion.
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The Saudi Art Council, in collaboration with the American Film Showcase, brought together local and international experts on Monday to share their thoughts and opinions about what needs to be done for the Kingdom’s cinema industry.
Updated 14 March 2018
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What the future of Saudi Arabia’s film industry holds

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia prepares to reopen its cinemas, a panel of experts in the film industry gathered to discuss the future of cinematic story-telling in the Kingdom and the challenges that lie ahead.
The Saudi Art Council, in collaboration with the American Film Showcase, brought together local and international experts on Monday to share their thoughts and opinions about what needs to be done for the Kingdom’s cinema industry which is on a growth path after a 35-year ban on cinemas was lifted late last year.
“There needs to be a law infrastructure for the cinema, so people can be directed in the right direction,” said Saudi actor and comedian, Hisham Fageeh, one of the panelists.
“Making films is a process of reducing damage because there is so much that can go wrong,” said Fageeh, who co-produced “Barakah Meets Barakah” — a film submitted for consideration in the best foreign language film category at the Oscars in 2016.
US consul general in Jeddah, Matthias J. Mitman, introduced the panelists at Monday’s event, before handing over the discussion to moderator Nestor Vences, the communication manager of the American Film Showcase.
“If you know what you want, you should go after that immediately, because not a lot of people usually know what they want,” said another panelist, filmmaker Anu Valia — whose recent short film “Lucia, Before and After” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize for US fiction.
“Consistent encouragement is 80 percent of the work for me,” she told the audience, which had both experienced and rookie directors and writers among them.
“When you see someone like you doing what you want to do, it suddenly becomes possible,” said the writer, director and producer, who is also part of New York Film Festival’s Artist Academy.
“Youngsters … need to learn from their mistakes,” said the third panelist, Jasim Al-Saady, when asked for advice for young content creators.
“Be open to failures and don’t hesitate to express yourself,” said Al-Saady — a production manager and assistant director for “Hologram for the King,” “Journey to Mecca” and “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden”.
Valia agreed, saying: “When people criticize you for your work, just take what is constructive and discard the rest. Keep improving, do not let that criticism stop you from doing new things again.”
On March 1, Saudi Arabia started issuing licenses for cinema-operators in the Kingdom.
By 2030, it expects to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens, building an industry it hopes will contribute more than SR90 billion ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs.
Fageeh — who was the first Saudi to perform in Gotham Theater and headline an Arabic standup comedy tour in US and England — encouraged home-grown filmmakers to continue their work.
“When we open a cinema, we need to have a slot for local content-makers, because hearing your accent, your dialect and verdict on screen is magic,” he told the audience.
The three experts openly shared their own experiences, both traumatic and successful, before mingling freely with the audience at the end of the discussion.
“I feel very proud of our country’s progress, that our country is improving finally in our mentality,” said Ghazal Hameed, 23, who was among the audience.


Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

Updated 19 July 2019
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Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

  • The president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Shagaf Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey
  • Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back”

CHRISTCHURCH: King Salman’s Hajj offer to host families of those affected by March’s Christchurch terror attacks is “something really special,” said the president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Shagaf Khan.
The Saudi king has offered to host and cover the expenses of 200 Hajj pilgrims when they journey to Makkah this year.
Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey. “For some of them, it’ll be a great comfort feeling like they’ve fulfilled the obligations of being a Muslim,” he added.
Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back.”
When asked what the offer would mean for Canterbury’s Muslim community, Khan said it is part of the solidarity and support that has been shown to them since the Christchurch terror attacks, which claimed the lives of 51 people.
“Four months on … people still feel supported and they feel they’re still being remembered,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed Amir, who is working closely with the local community, Saudi Arabia’s Embassy and its Ministry of Islamic Affairs to implement King Salman’s offer, said it will be available for those who had lost family members or been injured in the mosque attacks.
Canterbury’s Muslims are “very appreciative” of the offer, added Amir, who is chairman of the Islamic Scholars Board of New Zealand.
“I’ll say with full confidence that this will be a big relief for the deceased’s families, for the victims, for all those who’ve been injured and affected,” he said.
When asked how the organization of the pilgrimage is going, Amir said “so far, so good,” but added that it has been challenging without official records to track everyone down.
He said it is an honor and a responsibility to help organize the pilgrimage, which he has been helping to plan since the end of Ramadan. “People are very excited about it,” he added.
He said he believed that the king’s offer had been made to help people’s rehabilitation after the terror attacks.
“The community believes he’s going to contribute in building Christchurch and bringing people to a normal life,” Amir added.