US film diplomacy program lends support to Saudi Arabian movie industry

Renowned American writer and director Anu Valia (R) with Niko Ruokosuo, general manager of Nebras Films, conducting film competitions in Riyadh. (AN photo)
Updated 19 March 2018
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US film diplomacy program lends support to Saudi Arabian movie industry

RIYADH: The US Embassy and the American Film Showcase, which brings award-winning contemporary American documentaries, movies and know-how to audiences and filmmakers around the world, have teamed up with Riyadh-based Nebras Films to hold workshops, screenwriters’ pitch competitions, and group discussions on the Saudi film industry.
Anu Valia, a writer, director, producer, and actor who has created and appeared in videos for MTV, IFC, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Adult Swim, CollegeHumor, Above Average, and Vox Media, was the anchor of the event in Riyadh as an ambassador of the American Film Showcase. Valia, who arrived in the Kingdom early this month, has spent 10 days in Jeddah and Riyadh conducting film workshops, discussions, and attending film screenings.
She will also hold group discussions, and attend film screenings during her stay in the eastern city of Dhahran from March 18 to 22. The screenwriter’s pitch competition was conducted in the premises of Nebras Films in Riyadh on Saturday. A tour of Nebras Films facility for Valia and for the US embassy officials was conducted by Niko Ruokosuo, general manager of Nebras, who also welcomed the guests and led the event with US embassy officials.
Valia expressed her joy over her interaction with Saudi filmmakers in the Kingdom and said: “I have met wonderful artists, film-makers and storytellers in the Kingdom, and I am really excited. This is my first visit to the Middle East, and I have seen that there is so much excitement and love for movies.” Valia added that she looks forward to world-class infrastructure and the release of films in cinemas in Saudi Arabia.
“It seems it is happening quickly with local film crews here,” said Valia, adding that she has met some Saudi directors and actors. “There is always a good range of stories from any particular place. No one story speaks for the entire nation,” she said, referring to the diverse range of film stories from Saudi Arabia. “I can feel the energy, the real energy and the excitement among filmmakers here in the Kingdom.”
During her stay in Jeddah and Riyadh, Valia held workshops on the craft of making movies, including storytelling structure, clips from films, breakdowns on writing characters, and directing scenes and actors. She also sat down with Saudi filmmakers to watch their films and discuss the techniques and themes used in their work. She is excited to help build upon the US-Saudi filmmaking collaboration and develop a stronger network between filmmakers in the two countries.
Valia had her most recent short film, “Lucia, Before and After,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize for US Fiction. The American Film Showcase, funded by a grant from the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, highlights the value of film in fostering understanding and cooperation, dialogue and debate.


Saudi communications minister receives youngest Saudi female journalist

Updated 19 July 2018
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Saudi communications minister receives youngest Saudi female journalist

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Abdullah Al-Sawah stressed the Kingdom's need to discover and support local talent.
He said that the ministry has paid increasing attention to technical talents, which has been represented through the organization of several events, the latest of which was the "Hackathon Digital Machines."
The event was aimed at creating a conducive environment to develop the capabilities of the digital youth and invest in their creative potential to maximize returns.
Al-Sawah noted that the event also aimed at "harnessing their abilities to develop the digital transformation process," calling for intensified and unified efforts in order to invest in Saudi talents for the benefit of the nation.
The minister was speaking during a meeting with Marian Taher Saleh, the youngest Saudi female journalist, alongside with her father.
Al-Sawah praised the role of her family, who have been supporting her from the beginning till she was able to enter the media field, expressing his appreciation for her media achievements.
For his part, Saleh's father expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the minister for his hospitality, appreciation and encouragement for his daughter.