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.


Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.