JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s blossoming film industry on Tuesday heralded a new dawn with the launch of the Kingdom’s first arthouse cinema.
The outdoor Cinema El-Housh opened in the historic city of Jeddah with the screening of director Stanley Kubrick’s celebrated “2001: A Space Odyssey” to mark the movie’s 51st anniversary.
The project is the brainchild of Saudi film director, producer and screenwriter Mahmoud Sabbagh and the event will continue until July 25 as part of the Jeddah Season festival.
“Cinema El-Housh is one of the first proper arthouses for film theater initiatives in Saudi Arabia and in Jeddah,” Sabbagh told Arab News.
“The idea of the cinema comes from outdoor cinemas, which was a phenomenon that existed in old Jeddah from the 1940s until the end of the 1970s, where people gathered in courtyards where they would screen a film and enjoy it.
“We are bringing that back to the community with all its minimalism and gestures for bringing people together and bringing the communal experience of watching films again,” he said.
“We chose old Jeddah because the phenomena existed here, and the idea of an arthouse film isn’t new. It really strikes a balance between a commercial cinema and non-commercial cinemas.
“With the opening of cinemas, we are witnessing a burst of commercial-driven cinema multiplexes. However, there was a void someone had to fill by introducing this idea of arthouse cinemas,” added Sabbagh.
“We are free to screen films that are of non-commercial value, non-mainstream, more independent films that are film festival frequent and classics, and Saudi films. We want to be a platform for all the emerging Saudi voices.”
Tuesday’s private screening of “2001: A Space Odyssey” was also attended by Saudi actor Khaled Yeslam who said the film’s message conveyed the dawning of a new era in the Kingdom.
“From my perspective, choosing “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it started with the new dawn of mankind. And the music played was the music we listened to in the 1980s and 1990s,” Yeslam told Arab News.
“So, seeing such an entry as a film in Al-Balad, it’s a metaphor itself; here in Al-Balad, in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia itself. I thought it was planned and that he meant to do that. And I think Mahmoud is such a genius for choosing such a film.”
On the Kingdom’s booming film industry, Yeslam said: “Through movies, it’s finally our (Saudis) time to tell our stories. We’re fed up with the stereotypes and double standards by Western media and it’s time to reveal our reality.
“In the end, we’re just human, we’re just like everyone else, and I believe that art is a way to connect with others as humans.”