What the future of Saudi Arabia’s film industry holds

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The Saudi Art Council, in collaboration with the American Film Showcase, brought together local and international experts on Monday to share their thoughts and opinions about what needs to be done for the Kingdom’s cinema industry.
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Filmmaker Anu Valia’s short film “Lucia, Before and After” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize for US fiction.
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The three experts openly shared their own experiences, both traumatic and successful, before mingling freely with the audience at the end of the discussion.
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The Saudi Art Council, in collaboration with the American Film Showcase, brought together local and international experts on Monday to share their thoughts and opinions about what needs to be done for the Kingdom’s cinema industry.
Updated 14 March 2018

What the future of Saudi Arabia’s film industry holds

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia prepares to reopen its cinemas, a panel of experts in the film industry gathered to discuss the future of cinematic story-telling in the Kingdom and the challenges that lie ahead.
The Saudi Art Council, in collaboration with the American Film Showcase, brought together local and international experts on Monday to share their thoughts and opinions about what needs to be done for the Kingdom’s cinema industry which is on a growth path after a 35-year ban on cinemas was lifted late last year.
“There needs to be a law infrastructure for the cinema, so people can be directed in the right direction,” said Saudi actor and comedian, Hisham Fageeh, one of the panelists.
“Making films is a process of reducing damage because there is so much that can go wrong,” said Fageeh, who co-produced “Barakah Meets Barakah” — a film submitted for consideration in the best foreign language film category at the Oscars in 2016.
US consul general in Jeddah, Matthias J. Mitman, introduced the panelists at Monday’s event, before handing over the discussion to moderator Nestor Vences, the communication manager of the American Film Showcase.
“If you know what you want, you should go after that immediately, because not a lot of people usually know what they want,” said another panelist, filmmaker Anu Valia — whose recent short film “Lucia, Before and After” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize for US fiction.
“Consistent encouragement is 80 percent of the work for me,” she told the audience, which had both experienced and rookie directors and writers among them.
“When you see someone like you doing what you want to do, it suddenly becomes possible,” said the writer, director and producer, who is also part of New York Film Festival’s Artist Academy.
“Youngsters … need to learn from their mistakes,” said the third panelist, Jasim Al-Saady, when asked for advice for young content creators.
“Be open to failures and don’t hesitate to express yourself,” said Al-Saady — a production manager and assistant director for “Hologram for the King,” “Journey to Mecca” and “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden”.
Valia agreed, saying: “When people criticize you for your work, just take what is constructive and discard the rest. Keep improving, do not let that criticism stop you from doing new things again.”
On March 1, Saudi Arabia started issuing licenses for cinema-operators in the Kingdom.
By 2030, it expects to open 300 cinemas with 2,000 screens, building an industry it hopes will contribute more than SR90 billion ($24 billion) to the economy and create 30,000 permanent jobs.
Fageeh — who was the first Saudi to perform in Gotham Theater and headline an Arabic standup comedy tour in US and England — encouraged home-grown filmmakers to continue their work.
“When we open a cinema, we need to have a slot for local content-makers, because hearing your accent, your dialect and verdict on screen is magic,” he told the audience.
The three experts openly shared their own experiences, both traumatic and successful, before mingling freely with the audience at the end of the discussion.
“I feel very proud of our country’s progress, that our country is improving finally in our mentality,” said Ghazal Hameed, 23, who was among the audience.


Giant puppets’ musical show hits high note among Saudi festivalgoers

The Tanween puppets are putting on theater performances for the first time, accompanied by a traditional Saudi band, providing different experiences to visitors. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 5 min 39 sec ago

Giant puppets’ musical show hits high note among Saudi festivalgoers

  • Activities of Tanween Season in Eastern Province are aimed at all ages and are designed to be family friendly

ALKHOBAR: A musical show involving giant puppets has been hitting a high note among visitors to a popular Saudi festival. The models, standing 12 meters tall, have drawn big audiences to Alkhobar Corniche where performances have been taking place as part of Tanween Season.
Three huge puppets made up a family consisting of the father, donned in a white thobe and traditional Arabic head piece, the mother in a black abaya, and their son wearing a green Tanween T-shirt.
Children watching the show sang along to Saudi folk songs as puppeteers using special machinery brought the giant characters to life.
Tanween Season, in the Eastern Province, is a 17-day event that runs until Oct. 26, with talks, workshops, discussion panels, and performances built around this year’s theme of “play.” Activities are aimed at all ages and are designed to be family friendly.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Tanween puppets are putting on theater performances for the first time, accompanied by a traditional Saudi band.

• Saudi, French, Belgian and Spanish talent have combined to stage the show at Alkhobar Corniche until Saturday.

“There’s a wide range of different experiences for visitors when they visit Ithra (the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, in Dhahran) or the installations outside. Our goal is to deliver a message: How to use play in a different, creative way that introduces a myriad of ideas and culture,” the event’s head of performance, Anas Al-Ratoee, told Arab News.
Spanish delights
The Tanween puppets are putting on theater performances for the first time, accompanied by a traditional Saudi band. Saudi, French, Belgian and Spanish talent have combined to stage the show at Alkhobar Corniche until Oct. 19.
“The Giant Puppets is a Spanish band, known as Carros de Foc, that usually performs traditionally in parades and festivals, where these 12-meter giants walk among people.
“We added the Saudi culture to it through traditional music performed by a local band. We wanted to depict a scene from a normal day in the life of a Saudi household; the dynamic between a father, mother and child,” added Al-Ratoee.
Muna Hassan, from Dammam, said her younger brother had thoroughly enjoyed the performance. “I was very happy to see him so excited and to see events like this catering to his age group.”