RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.
The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.
More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.
Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”
“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.
“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.
Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.
Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”
Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh.
Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.
“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.
“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.
Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years.
“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.”
Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.
“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.
“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.