Saudi filmmakers in the spotlight at LA festival

Young Saudi Film Festival panel discusses the upcoming production. (Photo courtesy: NYFA)
Updated 24 February 2018

Saudi filmmakers in the spotlight at LA festival

JEDDAH: Six films from Saudi Arabia will headline the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, which opens in Los Angeles this week, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has announced.
The festival on Feb. 18 at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset Boulevard will also showcase two films from Egypt. The eight short films range from five to 20 minutes in length, and cover a wide range of genres, from comedies to dramas and family-friendly screenplays.
This year’s festival arrives as film enjoys a renaissance in the Kingdom, with the lifting of of a 35-year ban on cinemas, along with a multimillion-dollar contract with the cinema corporation Vue International to open more than 35 cinemas in the Kingdom, the first to begin screenings later this year. This, together with the conclusion of the 11th annual Asian Film Festival held in Jeddah this month, has inspired Saudis to pursue filmmaking ideas within the Arab world and abroad.
Young Saudi Film Festival (YSFF) President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi highlighted the difficulties young Saudis faced attempting to break into the film industry. “Last year Saudi filmmakers didn’t have any theaters where they could show their films and creative productions. With hope and consistent effort, cinema is now back again in Saudi Arabia.
“Our goal since Abdul Aziz Al-Mutari and I started YSFF was to have a platform to link filmmakers to each other so they can exchange experiences, knowledge, and connections,” he said. “It’s going to be the same case this year. We had an impressive variety of films submitted from around the world, and we congratulate all the filmmakers. It was very challenging for our selection committee to choose only eight films.”
Director of NYFA’s Los Angeles campus Dan Mackler said: “As an international film school and home to many Saudi Arabian alumni and students, the New York Film Academy is very happy with Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen theaters. We share Rakan’s excitement for this second event and expect it to surpass last year’s impact on bringing talented filmmakers to light.”
Along with the films, the festival will show a congratulatory video by Saudi Arabian actor Nasser Al-Gassaby, as well as an original performance piece by the renowned NYFA improv troupe. The festival will conclude with a question-and-answer session moderated by YSFF host Maan bin Abdulrahman.
Dean of enrolment services for NYFA Tami Alexander said aspiring Saudi musicians and filmmakers deserved support. “We are very proud that NYFA alumni and students are leading the media and entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia. We support Rakan and Abdul Aziz’s vision for the Young Saudi Film Festival and are happy to sponsor the festival in Los Angeles. After the announcement that cinemas will be allowed in the Kingdom again, I could not be more thrilled,” she said.
Alexander said that since 2011 NYFA had been encouraging Saudi visual and performing artists to study at the academy. “The Young Saudi Film Festival is a time to celebrate our current students and alumni, and an opportunity for the entire community to support local artists and cinema in Saudi Arabia and the GCC,” she said.
NYFA graduate Mohamed Al-Yamani, director and writer of “Hero Complex,” which will be shown at the festival, said: “This is a great way to showcase our talents as upcoming filmmakers to our peers and future work associates. I’m delighted to see the NYFA is investing in the Saudi filmmaking community.”
The short films screening at this year’s festival are: “Bloodline,” written and directed by Saud Al-Moghirah, produced by Javier Olmo; “Eternity,” written and directed by Mohamed Makki, produced by Mohamed Makki and Mohamed Obaidullah; “Hero Complex,” written and directed by Mohamed Al-Yamani, produced by Mohamed Al-Yamani and Douglas Spain; “The Nostalgia,” written by Sarah Lotfy, directed and produced by Moataz Badran; “Piece of Wood,” by Yassin Koptan; “The Scapegoat,” written by Charlie Millen and Stephen Ranieri, directed by Talha B., produced by Maan B; “Spirit of North,” by Mohamed Ali Al-Marhabi; “Under Concrete,” by Meshal Al-Jaser.


A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

Updated 19 October 2019

A catering firm in Saudi Arabia tackles obesity from school level

  • Rihab Hasanain set up Blooming Bs to provide schoolchildren with healthy meals
  • Blooming Bs strives to raise awareness of the obesity problem in the Kingdom

CAIRO: One Saudi woman was so concerned about her children’s unhealthy school-canteen meals that she decided to improve not only her family’s diet but also the eating habits of the entire nation.

Rihab Hasanain, spurred by the Kingdom’s growing obesity epidemic, set up the catering firm Blooming Bs to provide children with healthy lunch boxes and offer them advice on the importance of eating healthy food and being active.

The company’s name originates from the three Bs: Brain, body and box. The healthy boxes are provided to students and children aged two and above at schools, canteens, childcare centers and indoor playground centers.

Saudi Arabia has the Middle East’s second-highest obesity level after Kuwait with a 35.4 percent rating,  according to the CIA World Factbook.

Hasanain said that she wants to raise awareness of the region’s obesity problem, particularly among children.

“Childhood obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing health care systems worldwide,” she said.

“A number of factors have contributed to the problem, such as lack of childhood physical activities, and a low awareness around the prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases.”

Hasanain said that Blooming Bs’ mission is to combat childhood obesity in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by promoting healthy eating habits.

Rihab Hasanain

This includes educating children and parents about the importance of healthy food and lifestyles, providing youngsters with healthy food choices, and creating a community of future healthy eaters.

In Saudi Arabia, a major contributing factor to the obesity crisis is the widespread availability of unhealthy food in school canteens, she said.

In 2016, the ambitious mother of two took matters into her own hands by establishing her commercial kitchen in the Kingdom’s capital Riyadh.

Using her personal savings, Hasanain hired a team of 10 multidisciplinary women, including public relations and administration staff, social-work specialists, early childhood educators and drivers.

She also leveraged her international connections to help secure support and endorsement from a number of prominent mentors.

“They are extraordinary individuals with an outstanding track record in social entrepreneurship, hospitality and, most importantly, health promotion and healthy school canteens,” Hasanain said.

Blooming Bs has since grown to cater to more than 20 day-care units and schools, as well as hundreds of individual families. The firm has now sold more than 45,000 items and served over 10,000 lunch meals since its launch.

Hasanain said that the company’s contracts and deliveries vary according to customer categories.

“Our products range from morning, lunch and afternoon meals for children to freshly squeezed juices and individual food items that can be sold individually at school canteens,” she said.

“We take the stress away for parents. Our clients are assured that our products are healthy because the meals are created based on the consultation of our in-house nutritionist.”

While Hasanain is well on her way to transforming the diets of children in Riyadh, she has her eye on the bigger picture.

The Blooming Bs entrepreneur also aims to solve childhood obesity in neighboring countries, such as the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.

“During Blooming Bs’ expansion, I have tried to develop a holistic viewpoint on children’s nutrition, leading to improved operation processes and ideas,” Hasanain said.

“Blooming Bs also wants to empower Saudi and Arab women by creating more job opportunities,” she added.

“Ultimately, I see my company becoming an upscale international brand, trusted by parents, schools and governments.”

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• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.