Saudi film to premiere in Vox cinemas for first time

Saudi film to premiere in Vox cinemas for first time
‘Roll’em, a film by an all-Saudi crew, is being shot in Jeddah. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 11 March 2019

Saudi film to premiere in Vox cinemas for first time

Saudi film to premiere in Vox cinemas for first time
  • The forecast was based on a projected 2030 population of 39.5 million, and 6.6 screens per 100,000 people
  • Cinemas were banned in the country for decades until the first one opened last April in Riyadh

JEDDAH: A Saudi film to the core, “Roll’em” was developed, written and produced over three years with an all-Saudi crew, from the actors to the sound director.
Vox cinema will have a private screening on Wednesday and a public one on Thursday. “Roll’em” is directed and produced by Abdulelah Al-Qurashi and co-produced by Abdulrahman Khoja.
The film follows the story of Saudi filmmaker Omar Nizar who, while on a journey to discover Jeddah, realizes that he does not know his beloved city as well as he thought he did.
He meets a retired cinematographer whose glory days were in the 1970s as he divided his time between France and Cairo.
Screenwriter Yasser Hammad said “Roll’em” is a co-production with Saudi film production company Cinepoetics, owned by Khoja.
“It’s a Jeddawi film to the core. The post-production was in Egypt. The areas where we don’t have expertise in we had to outsource, but everything that had to do with the creative work is purely Saudi,” Hammad told Arab News.
“The idea (for the characters) came up from a joke actually. I was pretending to be an old cinematographer and using Hejazi words and the accent. It inspired me to create a character,” he said.
“We had our inspiration from actual film directors from the 1970s in Saudi Arabia that no one knows about. They tried to pursue the same dreams we had, but failed because of their circumstances,” he added.
“The idea is someone has a dream and wants to achieve it, but the circumstances aren’t allowing him to. The difference between the two generations makes the difference. Why can we make films today, and why couldn’t we make them back then?”
Hammad said having the film screened in Jeddah “is like a dream come true,” adding: “Without this city, I wouldn’t be able to create art.”
Naif Al-Daferi, who plays Mohannad in the film, told Arab News: “The audience will see a different image of Jeddah … To add to that, the story talks about someone who’s struggling in the field of filmmaking in capturing Jeddah.”
He said: “There’s entertainment value, the characters are diverse and the cast is incredible.” Al-Qurashi “is a true filmmaker,” Al-Daferi added.
Jeddah’s first cinema opened its doors to the public in January, and an industry expert said he expected up to 35 million people in the Kingdom to go to the movies every year.
Cinemas were banned in the country for decades until the first one opened last April in Riyadh.
Cameron Mitchell, CEO of the regional cinema chain Majid Al Futtaim, said Saudi Arabia had the capacity for high audience numbers. He was speaking at the opening ceremony for Vox Cinemas in Jeddah‘s Red Sea Mall.
“If you look at Dubai we have some 15 million customers there per annum. On the short-term goal in Saudi Arabia we are expecting the market to reach about 30 million customers,” he said.
Research from PwC Middle East in November estimated that total cinema revenue in Saudi Arabia would reach $1.5 billion by 2030. The forecast was based on a projected 2030 population of 39.5 million, and 6.6 screens per 100,000 people.
Last year, Vox Cinemas said it would be investing $533 million to open 600 theaters in the next five years.
“Some 95 percent of our employees here are from Saudi Arabia,” Mitchell said.
“We expect the cinemas in the Red Sea Mall to be showing a mix of films, probably about 300 films per year with at least six new movies every single week. It will take a while for us to have enough cinemas for everyone to get to go to the cinema whenever they want to.
“In my opinion, the cinema is a good place for families to spend time together in a social environment, especially in hot summer days, when outdoor activities are limited.”
There will be cinemas in Tabuk by the end of this year or by early 2020 and the Saudi government has been very helpful, he said, adding: “We got the license last April and we were keen to do the required steps and follow the regulations, and that went smoothly.”


8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
Updated 09 March 2021

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • 236 mosques have closed temporarily in last 29 days
  • 224 of them have so far reopened after sterilization

RIYADH: Saudi authorities temporarily closed eight mosques in three regions of Saudi Arabia on Monday, after 10 worshipers tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance said that 236 mosques have been closed in the past 29 days. Of those, 224 reopened after they were sterilized and steps were taken to ensure public safety.
Six of the mosques closed on Monday are in Riyadh, one is in Madinah and one in Tabuk, the ministry said. It added that six previously closed mosques have reopened in Makkah, Qassim and the Eastern Province after precautionary sterilization and maintenance.
The ministry called on worshipers and mosque officials to abide by all precautionary measures and report any violations or problems applying health protocols.


Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles
Participants including Saudi women attend a hackathon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles
  • Saudi Arabia's investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union

JEDDAH: Saudi women’s participation rate in the communications and IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021, an official at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said.
“Due to several initiatives, that percentage has surpassed that of Silicon Valley, which is currently at 17 percent,” Bandar Al-Duwais, MCIT’s director of future recruitments, said during the Women Enablement Summit.
After a recent surge in spending on women’s training, Saudi women currently make up 40 percent of digital entrepreneurs, he added.
Dr. Hala Al-Tuwaijri, head of G20 Women’s Empowerment team, said that during the Kingdom’s presidency, Saudi Arabia had three central focuses: Human empowerment, the earth’s sustainability and implementing new horizons.
“Women’s empowerment was at the core of all of them,” she said.
The Kingdom’s investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union.

FASTFACT

• Saudi women’s participation rate in the IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021.

Basmah Al-Jedai, general manager of the Center of Strategic Studies at the National Cybersecurity Authority, said that women took greater advantage of the authority’s training programs than men did.
The National Academy for Cybersecurity’s scholarship program, which offered students scholarships to esteemed institutes globally, has attracted 67 percent of female applicants.
Another initiative, Cyber Pro, which focuses on building a cybersecurity workforce in the Kingdom, has seen 62 percent of female participants.
Based on the Kingdom’s goal of increasing women’s participation in the labor market and the ministry’s strategy, which gives priority to enhancing the role of women in the sector, MCIT developed an integrated program to empower women in the communications and information technology sector.


Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi. (SPA)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
  • Al-Qasabi says initiative will help achieve Vision 2030 goals

RIYADH: A program to encourage Saudi women to join the accounting profession was launched on Monday by Saudi Commerce Minister Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The program is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA).
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi was also present at the launch event.
Describing the accounting profession as the “backbone of any company,” Al-Qasabi said the industry is “instrumental” in the national economy.
The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams. It is part of Saudi government efforts to empower women and increase their participation in the national economy.
“Women today have strong will, determination and ambition to succeed in all fields, especially accounting, which requires precision, analysis and vitality. Saudi women possess all these qualities,” Al-Qasabi said.
“The program will enhance women’s role in improving the profession and help achieve the goals of Vision 2030.”
The minister said that there are 140 SOCPA-certified female accountants in the Kingdom. He added that SOCPA has cooperated with Saudi universities to help more than 10,000 accounting students benefit from programs and initiatives.
SOCPA Secretary-General Dr. Ahmed Al-Maghamis told Arab News that the organization will sign multiple agreements with the private sector to help promote accounting as a profession for Saudis.
He said that SOCPA aims to fill 20,000 auditing and accounting jobs by 2022.
The new women’s accounting program also doubles up as an initiative to increase the number of Saudi accountants and enable economic sectors to receive better access accounting and auditing services, he added.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams.

• It is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants.

“The program aims to develop the skills of Saudi women and allow them to participate in SOCPA council and committees,” Al-Maghamis said.
SOCPA is also working to establish a center to support small and medium enterprises. The women’s program includes several initiatives, such as a volunteer club and accounting leaderships, the empowerment platform and the women’s council, he said.
Dr. Ghuraibah Al-Twaiher, chairperson of the Future Women Society, said that promoting women and helping them achieve professional success is necessary for future economic growth.
“Vision 2030 recognizes the key role of women in the development process and calls for greater participation of women to build a vital society,” she said.
In line with the Future Women Society’s mission to enhance women’s integrated economic value locally and internationally, the society recently signed an agreement with the Saudi Financials Association (SFA), Al-Twaiher said.
“The society aims to enable, develop and empower women’s career and professional skills. The SFA increases public awareness of the financial and accounting industries and also contributes to the development of a national cadre that is specialized in finance and accounting,” she added.
Al-Twaiher said the memorandum of understanding with the SFA includes joint cooperation in organizing and implementing awareness campaigns..
As part of this, the two organizations will design training programs for women interested in the fields of accounting and finance.
Razan Al-Sehaibani, a certified accountant, said that women are naturally suited to accounting. She added that she chose the profession because she had the capabilities to be an active member in society and contribute to building the national economy.
She praised the future of the accounting industry as “promising,” adding that the addition of more women accountants will benefit the field.


Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
  • Incentives intended to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of COVID-19

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman approved a number of incentive initiatives for establishments operating in the Hajj and Umrah sectors, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.
The move comes as part of the king’s keenness to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals, private sector businesses and investors.
“These initiatives come as an extension of the Kingdom’s efforts to confront the financial and economic impacts on the sectors operating in the Hajj and Umrah field and the economic activities most affected by the repercussions of the pandemic,” a statement on SPA said.
The initiatives include:
1. Accommodation facilities would be exempt of annual fees for licenses for municipal commercial activities for one year in Makkah and Madinah.
2. Hajj and Umrah sector establishments will be exempt from paying the fee for employed expats for six months.
3. Licenses for accommodation facilities from the Ministry of Tourism may be renewed free of charge for one year in Makkah and Madinah, which can be extended.
4. Collection of residency renewal fees for expatriates working in activities related to the Hajj and Umrah sector will be postponed for six months, and the amounts are to be paid in installments over a period of one year.
5. The validity of licenses (application forms) for buses operating in facilities that transport pilgrims would be extended without charge for one year.
6. Collection of customs duties for new buses for this year’s Hajj season will be postponed for three months, and to be paid in installments over a period of four months starting from the due date.
The Saudi government has launched more than 150 initiatives, the allocations of which exceeded SR180 billion ($47.9 billion), with the aim of confronting the repercussions of pandemic and mitigating its effects on individuals, the private sector and investors.


Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally
Dania Akeel describes the Saudi rally’s standards as very high. (Social media)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally
  • Dania Akeel says Saudi women have been given the maximum opportunity to discover themselves

MAKKAH: Saudi biker Dania Akeel sustained three pelvic fractures while participating in the Bahrain Season, but she has not been discouraged from planning to compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally.

She is one of the most prominent names in next year’s event, after arduous rounds in different rallies and getting being trained by professionals in the UAE and Spain.
Akeel took part in competitions in Dubai in 2019, as well as in Bahrain Season.
“In the last season, I suffered an accident and sustained three pelvic fractures, affecting my spine in the Bahrain in March 2020, which forced me to return to Saudi Arabia to undergo medical tests and physical therapy,” she told Arab News.
She described the Saudi rally’s standards as very high and said that champions from around the world traveled to the Kingdom to take part in the Dakar Rally, one of the toughest events.
Akeel has been a fierce competitor in races including the Hail and Northern Region Rally, which is a stage of the International Motorsport Federation’s world rally championship.

Saudi women can now prove to the world their ability to compete and participate in international racetracks in different sports.

Dania Akeel

“I was lucky that rallies in Saudi Arabia are very advanced internationally, and I was encouraged by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF). I also became the first Saudi woman to have received the Speed Bikes Competition license after competing in the UAE.”
She thanked SAMF Chairman Prince Khalid bin Sultan and Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki for supporting women who were entering events at an international level.
She said that Saudi women had been given the maximum opportunity to discover themselves and become key partners in all occasions, celebrations and diverse sports.
It was the element of adventure that attracted her to rallies, she explained, because racing was a sport that required a comprehensive partnership and navigation with a co-pilot. The diversity of rallies, in terms of distance and duration, also appealed to her.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Dania Akeel is one of the most prominent names in next year’s event.

• Akeel took part in competitions in Dubai in 2019, as well as in the Bahrain Season.

• Akeel has been a fierce competitor in races including the Hail and Northern Region Rally.

“The Sharqiyah International Baja Toyota Rally is my personal first race. It is an incentive for me to participate in the 2022 Dakar Rally and a race that introduces me to the future world of racing.”
She aimed to continue in the rally with good health and safety measures in place and learn from her experiences which, she said, was important for the “real takeoff and acquisition of essential skills in this kind of races.”
There was a great passion for the sport, she observed, especially among ambitious Saudi women who had discovered challenging worlds and areas that reflected their reputation.
“They can now prove to the world their ability to compete and participate in international racetracks in different sports.”
Akeel, who holds a master’s degree in international business, said that motorbikes had helped her to discover herself and learn about concentration, mastery, responsibility and participation skills. She also learned about mental clarity.
“This is a sport that needs full commitment to training, physical and mental fitness and control.”
Akeel has been passionate about driving since her childhood. She rode her first quad bike aged 8, and her first 150cc dirt bike in the desert at 14.
“I believe it is only natural for me to partake in one of the most challenging desert championships around the world, which also happens to take place in our sandy backyard,” she said.
Akeel was also the recipient of the “Rookie of the Year” award during her first racing season, for the Ducati Cup in the UAE National Sportbike Super series 2019/2020 season.