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.


UAE celebrates Saudi National Day

Updated 21 min 18 sec ago
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UAE celebrates Saudi National Day

DUBAI: The celebratory mood to mark Saudi Arabia’s 88th National Day has reached as far as New York, with Nasdaq displaying images of the Kingdom’s rulers at its tower on Times Square in New York while Dubai carrier Emirates is pulling out all the stops to join in the festivities.

The Dubai airline operated a special one-off A380 service, known as EK 813 and EK 814, on Sunday to the capital city of Riyadh, touching down at King Khalid International Airport at 3:30pm. The return flight was scheduled to depart at 6:50pm.

A YouTube video from Emirates also showed crew handing out scarves embroidered with the countries’ flags, as well as white roses, to passengers while boarding the A380 aircraft.

 

Nasdaq Dubai, the UAE-based operations of the New York equities exchange, posted: “Best wishes from #NasdaqDubai to #SaudiArabia on the occasion of the 88th National day” in its Twitter account, along with photos containing images of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed being projected on a huge electronic billboard. A separate tweet also showed an 11-second video with the merged UAE and Saudi Arabian flags fluttering on the billboard.

Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, will be illuminated in the national flag of Saudi Arabia, in a display of friendship between the UAE and its Gulf neighbor.

In the UAE’s capital, the General Command of Abu Dhabi Police decorated 88 of their cars – one for every year being celebrated – with the flags of Saudi Arabia and the UAE and the words “Together Forever.”