RIYADH: The sixth Saudi Film Festival came to an end on Sunday evening, with the event’s award winners being announced and the Golden Palm winners’ work showcased.
Broadcast live on YouTube due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the virtual festival gave 24-hour access to 25 films.
The six-day event included live broadcasts of discussions and saw returning directors, as well as new faces.
Entries included “And When Do I Sleep?” by Husam Al-Sayed, “Coexistence” by Haya Al-Suhail, “Remember Me” by Mohammed Hammad, and “The Village” by Mohammed Al-Hamadi. Khaled Zidan and Hakim Jumaa were among the other directors featured.
Festival director Ahmed Al-Mulla reflected on the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s festival and his hopes for future events.
“In an unprecedented experience, the sixth edition of the Saudi Film Festival presented its programs for six days, around the clock and online,” he told Arab News. “I would like to congratulate the Golden Palm prizewinners and thank the audience who interacted with the festival channel for follow-up, comment, and discussion. I also congratulate all filmmakers who have participated with us in the various programs and events. They are our award and our golden palm tree, and we promise them a rich seventh edition soon.”
Despite the festival’s digital status this year, many of the directors involved in the festival still felt supported and seen. They praised organizers for their efforts in keeping the event alive.
Director Abdullah Alrefai, whose documentary “Traveler” was shown, said: “The Saudi Film Festival is a blessing in its support of the local industry, and there is no doubt that it creates a spirit of competition between the participants.
This was my first time participating in the festival and it was a wonderful feeling to see the film online, and be able to see the audience’s reactions at the same time.”
Director Saad Tahaitah, who showcased the film “Talal in Dakar,” compared the differences between last year’s event and this one.
“The festival being online meant that we missed out on the opportunity to meet fellow filmmakers after the shows,” he said. “Last year, the meetings were full of familiarity and love, which we missed this year. But I would like to thank the festival for its revival despite the current circumstances. It was also nice to watch people’s reactions directly during the presentation of the film. I want to participate every year in the festival, not just next year.”
The King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra, has developed into one of the country’s leading venues for film premieres and programming.
It is also one of Saudi Arabia’s leading film production houses. Its support of the film industry has led to productions receiving accolades and awards at prestigious local and international film festivals.
To date, Ithra has produced 20 films that have received 15 local and international awards and several Ithra-produced movies are on Netflix.
Launched in 2008, the Saudi Film Festival has become a catalyst for the Kingdom’s film industry.
Held in partnership with the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts in Dammam and the support of the Ministry of Culture’s Film Commission, the annual event showcases the national industry through screenings, competitions, discussions, workshops, and award ceremonies.