CANNES: The Saudi Film Council’s pavilion fostered a truly ebullient atmosphere on its second day of programming at the 71st Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film on Friday, with filmmakers, producers, government representatives and other industry professionals from across the world meeting with homegrown Saudi talent.
The two-story pavilion, located in the festival’s International Village, has been one of the most active international pavilions at the festival since its opening. Visitors are able to experience a virtual reality simulation that shows prospective filmmakers and investors a 360-degree view of the many beautiful places that could potentially become shooting locations for both international and domestic productions coming in the near future.
Hajjar Alnaim, a Saudi Arabian filmmaker, was ecstatic about her experience at the pavilion thus far.
“I’ve been meeting a lot of people, making connections and networking,” said Alnaim. “It’s also been wonderful to meet with my Saudi peers, people from my country that I haven’t introduced or talked to, such as Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour. She’s a person that I look up to all the time as a director, and it’s so nice to talk to her about her work and share my work with her. I’ve also shared my work with people and production companies that are interested in collaborating, and being a part of this change. You see that they’re excited about the change, and they want to be a part of it.”
Dr. Mohamed Ghazala, assistant professor at Effat Univeristy and chair of its visual and digital production department, has been wowed by the fact that Saudi Film Council was able to put together the Saudi pavilion and its broader participation in the Cannes Film Festival within a matter of two months.
“Other pavilions are planning things a year ahead, so it was very significant that they managed to do this, and to give this platform for Saudi filmmakers to speak with other people around the world, and to show the many opportunities in the country in terms of production, in terms of locations for shooting international projects, as well as in terms of co-production,” said Ghazala.
“This was a very important action to foster the industry in the country. They have many talents there, but they need the support of the country to flourish and to get onto the international stage. This is the role of the Saudi Film Council and they are doing it very well so far,” he said
Ahmed M. Almulla, culture consultant and founder of the Saudi Film Festival in Dammam, which he has held since 2008, believes that this is Saudi Arabian film’s biggest moment in history.
“The program of the Saudi Film Council is beautiful and strong, and I hope they will succeed,” said Almulla. “Saudi filmmakers have the talent, the passion, and are autodidactic. They have traveled the world to take courses, to study at foreign universities without any funding or support, and now we have a council that can help support, open doors and fill the gap that we felt before.”
Visiting the pavilion, Margot James, UK Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said she intends to push for the UK to begin co- production in Saudi Arabia.
“There’s a huge amount that our British Film Institute can do to help the Saudi equivalent organization to enable everyone to benefit from the latest techniques and production methods,” James told Arab News.
The Saudi pavilion has organized panels and roundtables featuring both regional and international film figures that will continue until May 15, featuring such subjects as Saudi Arabia: The Next Frontier of Filming Locations; Saudi Arabia: A Historic Transformation Through Film; and Groundbreaking Women in Film in Saudi Arabia and the MENA Region.