Saudi film industry heralds new dawn with opening of first arthouse cinema

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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
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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.’ (AN Photo)
Updated 28 June 2019
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Saudi film industry heralds new dawn with opening of first arthouse cinema

  • Cinema El-Housh 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
  • Mahmoud Sabbagh: We chose old Jeddah because the phenomena existed here, and the idea of an arthouse film isn’t new

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.”

FASTFACTS

Outdoor cinemas existed in Jeddah from the 1940s until the late 1970s.


International Hay Festival set to arrive in the UAE

UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance announced Wednesday that the event will start on Feb. 24. (Supplied)
Updated 18 September 2019

International Hay Festival set to arrive in the UAE

DUBAI: For its first edition in the Arab World, the international Hay Festival will arrive in the UAE on Feb. 24, at Abu Dhabi’s Manarat Al-Saadiyat and other venues across the city, UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance announced Wednesday. 

The four-day event will host workshops, artistic performances, new technology discovery, storytelling and many more art and literature-related activities.

The festival will take place at Abu Dhabi’s Manarat Al-Saadiyat and other venues across the city. (Supplied)

Since 1987, the Hay Festival has launched 125 events globally, attracting more than 4.5 million people to events in 30 locations. 

The festival, originally based in Whales, will bring together writers and thinkers from different cultures and backgrounds to discuss ideas, share knowledge and host conversations. 

The festival aims to spark imagination and curiosity, from children and young literature enthusiasts to seasoned readers.

The Minster of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan Mabarak Al-Nahyan said: “Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an important initiative of our Year of Tolerance, which celebrates the legacy of our nation’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, whose tolerance enabled the success we enjoy as a country today.”

Minster of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan Mabarak Al-Nahyan announced the news in a press conference in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied) 

 “(The event) is not only about bringing the festival to Abu Dhabi, but taking Abu Dhabi to the world,” the international director of the Hay Festival, Cristina La Roche, told Arab News.

Cristina La Roche is the international director of the Hay Festival. (Supplied)

The award-winning Syrian poet Adonis is said to be attending the festival and will celebrate his 90th birthday with the participants. “He is one of the world’s greatest poets. He is unquestionably influential not only in Arabic but to poets all around the globe,” Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, told Arab News.   

Peter Florence is the director of Hay Festival. (Supplied) 

Other award-winning novelists like the Saudi Muhammed Hasan Alwan and the Omani Jokha Alharthi will also attend the event. 

Conversations will take place in multiple languages and all sessions will be live translated into Arabic and English. Tickets to all sessions will be free for those in full time education.