Rewriting the script: Effat students win star role in Saudi film industry

The chairman of Effat University's Visual and Digital Production Department, Dr. Mohammed Ghazala, with a group of students. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 06 May 2018

Rewriting the script: Effat students win star role in Saudi film industry

  • The Kingdom hopes to open at least 300 cinemas and develop a solid film industry by 2030.
  • Ghazala said the department was the first in Saudi Arabia to offer cinematic arts studies.

JEDDAH: Effat University will play a leading role in building the filmmaking industry in Saudi Arabia, said Dr. Mohammed Ghazala, the university’s Visual and Digital Production Department chairman. 

The department was established in 2013, when cinemas were still banned in the Kingdom. It offers courses in production, screenwriting, animation and interactive media. The first students graduated last year. 

Effat University’s President Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail told Arab News the department was established to interact with the global and regional community mainly through social media. 

“Social media received a lot of attention with the rise of Arab Spring, and since then Arabs have had a growing presence on social media channels,” Ghazala said.

“Arab countries accepted social media platforms as an influencing factor in the lives of people, and now social media plays a critical role in Arab countries.” 

Ghazala said the department was the first in Saudi Arabia to offer cinematic arts studies.

“Our instructors come from different areas of the world, such as the US, Korea, Malaysia, Jordan, and Egypt,” he said.

“With tremendous efforts, we were able to make a new method and style to deal with cinematic products, and allow students to express their dreams, hopes, challenges, fears and thoughts via film.” 

Princess Lulwah Al-Faisal, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and general supervisor of Effat University, and Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, made an academic visit to USC School of Cinematic Arts at the University of the West, in western California, in 2012, where they saw the importance of having a visual and digital production department. 

They signed an agreement with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and worked with the Saudi Ministry of higher education to introduce the program at Effat University in September 2013. 

“During the past five years, we have developed the curricula with massive assistance and academic support from USC, one of the best film schools in the world. New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has been annually reviewing the department’s curricula since 2016,” Ghazala said.

“We have faced a lot of new challenges for a university, students and staff in the Kingdom.”

“We had a new curricula that needed to be developed when there were no cinemas, no professionals (particularly female professionals), and no academic schools in this particular field,” he said.

More than 75 percent of the department’s graduates are working in areas such as local television, while other students had begun startups.

The department made a number of strategic partnerships to support students. 

“Our strategic partnership with the General Authority for Audiovisual Media helped us to find actors and actresses. We also will have an agreement to allow our students to do their internship in the largest media production city in the region, in Cairo.”

The department will take part in the Cannes Film Festival in mid-May at the invitation of Saudi Film Council, sending the first-ever Saudi official delegation, Ghazalah said.

The Kingdom hopes to open at least 300 cinemas and develop a solid film industry by 2030. This will create 30,000 jobs and add value to the economy.

“The production of digital and visual media is an attractive area for Saudis, especially in light of the positive developments witnessed by the Kingdom with the launch of Vision 2030,” said Jamal Al-Lail.


Diplomatic Quarter: Envoys extend Eid greetings to Saudis

Updated 28 May 2020

Diplomatic Quarter: Envoys extend Eid greetings to Saudis

RIYADH: Foreign ambassadors to Saudi Arabia have been passing on their Eid Al-Fitr greetings to the government and people of the Kingdom.

The US Mission in the Kingdom, tweeted: “The US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid on behalf of all Americans living and working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia greeted saying, I would like to take this opportunity to wish Eid Mubarak to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and all our Saudi friends and colleagues as you celebrate this special holiday.

“May your Eid be joyous, even in this challenging time as we work together to fight (the) coronavirus (disease) COVID-19.”

In a tweet, the Australian ambassador in Riyadh, Ridwaan Jadwat, said: “Wishing everyone celebrating the end of Ramadan a joyous Eid Al-Fitr on behalf of my family and our embassy team: #EidMubarak!”

Posting a video message to the Saudi people, he added: “May I say on behalf of my family and the team here at the Australian Embassy in Riyadh, I hope that you have a safe, happy and blessed Eid Al-Fitr.”

Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, said: “May you all be blessed with #Peace, #Joy and #Love on #EidUlFitr and always! #EidMubarak to you and your families.”

Eid Al-Fitr celebrations this year have been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The holy month of Ramadan and the festival of Eid in 2020 will be remembered as a time when traditions had to be broken to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

In a message addressing Saudis, the Pakistani community in the Kingdom, and Muslims around the world, Pakistan’s consul general in Jeddah, Khalid Majid, said: “This year, we are celebrating Eid in a very simple and somber manner. Undoubtedly, the world is passing through one of the most difficult times due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, which has badly affected our socio-economic life.”

He added that many people had already lost their lives to the disease while large numbers were still battling with it.

“Besides, the death of around 100 of our Pakistani brethren in a recent PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) plane crash at Karachi has also left us sad and gloomy. My sincere prayers are with all those who lost their lives and also with their bereaved families. At the same time, I also sincerely pray for the good health and speedy recovery of all the COVID-19 patients.

“My deep appreciation and prayers for continued success also goes to all our frontline soldiers including doctors, paramedics, law enforcement agencies and all other involved departments, who are fighting against this deadly virus, at the risk of their own lives.

“I take this opportunity to convey my deepest gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for taking very effective measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. Provision of best health facilities and efficient other services across the Kingdom are instrumental in effectively tackling the situation. It is evident from these steps that the recovery rate in the Kingdom is one of the highest in the world,” Majid said.

“I advise all Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia to continue abiding by all local health and safety instructions, including those relating to social distancing, so that we can all be safe and play our part in strengthening the efforts of the Saudi government in defeating this pandemic.”