Russian Film Week promises entertainment bonanza in Saudi Arabia

Many cineplexes have come up in Saudi Arabia in recent months. The Saudi cinema industry is being seen as a good investment. Investors are being enticed to provide the best experience for moviegoers. (Reuters/File)
Updated 17 October 2019

Russian Film Week promises entertainment bonanza in Saudi Arabia

  • Russian businessmen say Saudi cinema industry is ripe for investment

MOSCOW: The growth of the cinema scene in Saudi Arabia reached unprecedented heights with the opening of Russian Film Week in Riyadh this week, a cultural bridge that has provided the Saudi audience with a broader look into the world of cinema.

“There are a lot of correlations between modern Russian film history and the same for your country,” said Paul Heth, chairman of KARO cinema, Russia’s leading cinema chain.

The Kingdom is ripe for cinema business investment and many cineplexes have spread across the country, enticing investors to provide the best experience for moviegoers. The ground is fertile for growth and with an increasingly technological world, the cinema experience has upped its game.

This week, the Saudi Ministry of Culture, in coordination with the Russian Direct Investment Fund and KARO, is bringing a taste of Russian cinema culture to Riyadh as part of the Russian Culture in Riyadh Festival. The event coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state visit.




 Stalingrad, 2013, directed by Fyodor Bondarchuk.

Earlier this month, Arab News met with the young and innovative president of KARO, Olga Zinyakova, and Paul Heth, chairman of KARO, at one of Moscow’s oldest theaters, the Oktyabr (October), for an exclusive look into bridging cultural divides through film.

“This is the first time Riyadh is hosting Russian Film Week and we are excited about how the Saudi audience will accept our movies and culture,” said Zinyakova.

“We really hope Russian films will find a response in the hearts of Riyadh moviegoers. It is really exciting to become acquainted with the opportunities your country has for the development of the film industry.”

HIGHLIGHTS

The Saudi Ministry of Culture is bringing a taste of Russian cinema culture to Riyadh.

For the first time in the Kingdom, nine of the best Russian films and animations were selected for a Saudi audience.




 The Mirror, 1975, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. 

For the first time in the Kingdom, nine of the best Russian films and animations were selected for a Saudi audience. The screenings will be held at the King Fahad Cultural Center in Riyadh.

“Our program has a few classic Russian movies. We also have animations, which will be interesting for any audience, no matter where they are from, because movies are universal,” said Zinyakova.

“The Cranes are Flying,” “Coach,” “Salyut 7,” “Stalingrad,” “Mirror,” are some of the movies to be screened over the coming days.

Among the selected movies are winners of international film festivals and animations that opened up new horizons in storytelling.

“We think that all of these movies will let the Saudi audience learn how versatile our cinematography is and how the movies are changing with the times,” said Zinyakova.




The Coach, 2018, directed by Danila Kozlovsky.

“The movies have gained popularity outside our country and are known and loved by a lot of people globally, and the Saudi audience will have the opportunity to become acquainted with an important part of the world of cinematography.”

Heth said that film production and cinemas are crucial for bridging cultural divides. 

He said that Saudi Arabia has potential for growth in the market as it recently opened cinema halls, with room for expansion.

He added that “KARO started in Russia in 1993 with one part-time cinema in a hotel lobby. By 1996, it had nine screens and the entire box office of cinema in Russia was $3 million. Over 20 years later, there are about 4,000 screens in a $1 billion market. So, there are a lot of correlations between modern Russian film history and the same for your country.”

The first Western-style theater in Russia was opened in the lobby of the Moscow Radisson.




Cranes are Flying, 2957, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov.

Russia had a thriving film tradition during the Soviet era and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the industry was rebuilt from scratch.

KARO has created a brand for itself by focusing on technology and setting new standards for the theatrical exhibition industry in Russia. According to Zinyakova, “KARO is part of a culture. We are not just an exhibitor.

“We think that Saudi Arabia’s market is full of opportunities for the development of the film industry.  The current macroeconomic situation in the country is positive for entering the entertainment market,” said Zinyakova. 

“We would be glad to contribute to the development of cinema in Saudi Arabia and to consider cooperation between our countries in this area.”


Diriyah Gate to be a global, historical and cultural landmark

Updated 22 November 2019

Diriyah Gate to be a global, historical and cultural landmark

  • Diriyah is home to Al-Turaif District, built in 1744 and known as one of the largest clay cities in the world

DIRIYAH: With the establishment of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), the historical site of Diriyah will become one of the largest and most important international destinations.

The DGDA seeks to transform the site into a location to host activities and events aimed at exchanging historical and cultural knowledge through museums and venues spread throughout
Al-Turaif District.

 The DGDA aims to celebrate the people of Diriyah by telling their stories and demonstrating their social, cultural and historical the roots, as the cradle of the first Saudi state and a symbol of the beauty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and
its people.

 Diriyah is home to Al-Turaif District, built in 1744 and known as one of the largest clay cities in the world. It was registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2010 — one of five Saudi sites listed.

Not far from Al-Turaif District is the historic Al-Bujairi District, which was a center for spreading science and knowledge during the prosperity of Diriyah, as the capital of the first Saudi state. 

Today it houses many commercial centers and cafes and is the perfect destination to experience Saudi cuisine.

One of the historical landmarks in Al-Turaif District is Salwa Palace, which is located in the northeastern part. It is the largest of its landmarks and spans over 10,000 square meters. It was founded by Imam Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed bin Saud in 1765, and is historically known as the home of the first royal family. 

The palace houses the Diriyah Museum, which presents the history and development of the first Saudi state through works of art, drawings, models and documentaries.

BACKGROUND

At the northern end of old Diriyah, the town of Ghusaybah sits atop of a plateau surrounded by the Hanifa Valley on three sides.

Salwa Palace forms an integrated architectural system with its residential, administrative, cultural and religious units.

 Al-Turaif District also includes the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Mosque, known as the Great Mosque or Al-Turaif Mosque. It is adjacent to Salwa Palace on the north side, and Imams used to lead Friday prayers there.

 To make movement between the mosque and the palace easier, Imam Saud bin Abdul Aziz built a bridge to connect them on the upper floor. The mosque houses a religious school to teach religious sciences. It was formerly the largest mosque in the Arabian Peninsula and was built to symbolize the strength and unity of the Saudi state.

 At the northern end of old Diriyah, the town of Ghusaybah sits atop of a plateau surrounded by the Hanifa Valley on three sides. It was settled by Mani’ Al-Muraydi, the oldest ancestor of the House of Saud, in the 15th century. 

Ghusaybah is a well-established location, carefully chosen for the establishment of the new governorate, and its location played a major role in the protection of Hajj convoys and trade passing through its areas of influence in Al-Arid region.

 Ghusaybah was the seat of an independent governorate before the founding of the first Saudi state. It provided protection for the northern gate of Diriyah during the campaign of Ibrahim Pasha in 1818.

 Samhan is one of the historical areas south of Ghusaybeh on a triangle overlooking the valley when it meets another tributary, the villages of Omran. It directly overlooks the districts of Qusayrin, Mrayih, and Al-Turaif. This location was important during the reign of Imam Mohammed bin Saud and his son Samhan, being a well-fortified site during the siege of Diriyah. It was selected by Imam Abdullah to be his defense headquarters.

 In the field of philanthropy, one may mention “Sabala Moudhi” which was founded by Imam Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed bin Saud, who made it a charitable endowment in the name of his mother, Moudhi bint Sultan bin Abi Wahtan, wife of Imam Mohammed bin Saud. 

It is located east of the Salwa Palace on the southeast of Al-Turaif District. It is a two-story building and was established to provide free accommodation for visitors coming to the city of Diriyah.