Pavilion gives Saudi Arabia a starring role in Cannes

Margot James, UK Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, at the Saudi pavilion on Friday, May 11. (AN Photo/Ammar Abd Rabbo)
Updated 12 May 2018

Pavilion gives Saudi Arabia a starring role in Cannes

  • 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.
  • The Saudi pavilion has organized panels and roundtables featuring both regional and international film figures that will continue until May 15.

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.

FASTFACTS

Saudi Film Council’s pavilion

1 of the top 3 largest pavilions in Cannes, featuring the only elevated open-air mezzanine. 46 delegates from the General Culture Authority and Saudi Film Council, film and production industry are attending. 228 minutes of Saudi short films screening. 13 Saudi provinces are highlighted as film locations. 1,300 islands in the Kingdom have been promoted to location scouts.


Syrian student who failed GCSE English exam praised for poem about homeland

Updated 24 August 2019

Syrian student who failed GCSE English exam praised for poem about homeland

  • Ftoun Abou Kerech wrote “The Doves of Damascus” shortly after arriving in the UK

LONDON: A Syrian student in the UK who failed her English GCSE exams has gone viral with a poem she wrote about her homeland.
Ftoun Abou Kerech wrote “The Doves of Damascus” shortly after arriving in the UK aged 14, in which she writes about the sadness she felt about leaving Syria and what made it special to her.
Her teacher, Kate Clanchy — who is also an award-winning poet herself — posted it on Twitter and it was quickly picked up and praised by social media users.
Clanchy, speaking to the UK’s The Times newspaper, said she posted the poem in frustration that the current GCSE system did not recognize “literary talent and imaginative use of language.”

She said: “The new GCSE is the last straw in a bundle of shallow thinking.
“It is over-determined syllabuses and bullying of teachers which has been getting heavier for a long, long time,” she added.
Syrian student Kerech achieved a 4 in her English Language exam, but 5 is considered a good pass.
Her poem was picked up by notable authors like Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, and Sir Philip Pullman — author of His Dark Materials — who hailed the student as a “talent.”
 

 

 

— — —

The Doves of Damascus

I lost my country and everything I
had before.

And now
I cannot remember for sure
the soft of the snow in my country.
I cannot remember
the feel of the damp air in summer.

Sometimes I think I remember
the smell of the jasmine
as I walked down the street

And sometimes autumn
With its orange and scarlet leaves
Flying in the high Damascus sky.

And I am sure I remember
my grandmother’s roof garden,
its vines, its sweet red grapes,
The mint she grew in crates for tea.

I remember the birds, the doves
of Damascus. I remember
how they scattered. I remember
Trying to catch them.