Famed Egyptian director optimistic about future of Saudi cinema

Famed Egyptian director optimistic about future of Saudi cinema
Renowned Egyptian director Khairy Beshara has been an important part of many Saudi lives, especially those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 23 December 2020

Famed Egyptian director optimistic about future of Saudi cinema

Famed Egyptian director optimistic about future of Saudi cinema
  • Saudi directors are creating exceptional and brave films on a high artistic level: Khairy Beshara

JEDDAH: Renowned Egyptian director Khairy Beshara has been an important part of many Saudi lives, especially those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, and he could not be happier to see their love and support for him.

As part of its efforts to promote cinema in the Kingdom, the Red Sea Film Festival is screening restorations of the director’s favorite films in theaters across the Kingdom.

Beshara was touched by the gesture: “I’m very grateful to the talented director, Mahmoud Sabbagh, who came up with the idea to restore my films.”

He said that he was surprised by his films being sold out, especially with some screenings starting late into the night.

“Saudi Arabia and my audience here are very dear to me. In all honesty, I’m very grateful to see eight of my films restored and replayed for the public with five of them showing in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dhahran.”

The chosen feature films include “The Collar and the Bracelet,” “Bitter Day, Sweet Day,” “Ice Cream in Gleam,” “Abracadabra America,” and “Traffic Light.”

The famed director last visited the Kingdom 15 years ago, and he remarked upon the astonishing transformation that has taken place since. 

“I can’t recognize anything except for the Old Jeddah. It has remained in my memory as I went to film the area for fun,” Beshara said.

His visit included a seminar organized by the film festival titled “Renewing cinema through plots, stories, and performances,” where he talked about his career, its challenges and his aspiration to get Egyptian actress Sherihan to star in one of his works.

“The master class was amazing. I was in a great condition and the mood was good. It was spontaneous and the questions flowed from the audience. There were really interesting questions from the host, Antoine Khalifa, who was intelligent and had a great understanding of my career as a whole, making it one of my most successful events,” said Beshara.

He said that Saudi cinema has made a leap through the new generation of directors who are creating exceptional and brave films on a high artistic level.

“These films are being viewed at international festivals and are gaining recognition, if not awards. The film industry is on the move and it is very promising,” he said.

“We were not used to speaking about real things and struggles based on the social reality in our countries. As a result, due to the social and cultural changes in Saudi Arabia, the films showcased now are brave in addressing things that have never been discussed, which is very positive,” Beshara added.

The director believes that flexible censorship guidelines — but not eliminating censorship altogether — allows for content that criticizes and portrays societal issues.

“It’s a great effort to bring awareness and in turn help societies overcome ongoing struggle and move forward, which is what art is for. Art is there to enlighten and illuminate. As you expand the margins of creativity, you’re bound to see fruitful, astonishing results,” he said.

Beshara visited the Effat University in Jeddah to look over students’ work as part of his Red Sea Film Festival activities. He revealed that he saw some promising works from scripts, postproduction and completed films.

He added that he was strict and honest with works he thought were not up to his standards.

“Perhaps if I’m giving my opinion in this cruel manner, it might benefit the youth who are still finding their way. It isn’t the end of the world when someone tells you that you suck.”

To lessen the blow, Beshara told Effat’s novice filmmakers about some of the worst students he taught at university. Many are now major stars, including Marwan Hamed, Ahmed Alaa Al-Deeb and Hala Lotfy.

“If you fail or have an unsuccessful experience, you learn through them. I find it difficult to give open-ended advice, because each experience is different, but we all watch movies, and it would be foolish if you made a terrible movie and couldn’t tell it was, with live examples all around us in international or local productions.”

The director’s advice is to exercise self-reflection and to ask: “What is my shortcoming? What am I lacking? How can I improve? Where am I going with this story?”

He is working on a new novel and film inspired by an illiterate Chinese man who moved to Egypt in 1937 from a village in Shandong before dying there in 1994.

The man becomes one of the most revered antiquities and artifacts auction owners, while also opening the second Chinese restaurant franchise in Egypt.

“It’s a very touching story for me as I’ve met the man, and his son happens to be a dear friend of mine,” said Beshara, who has completed the scenario for film and is working on finishing the novel to be published next year.

Beshara was born in Tanta in 1947. He attended the Egyptian Higher Institute of Cinema in 1976, and went on a two-year fellowship at the Film Institute in Poland.

In the 1980s, he led the “Neo-Realist” movement in Egyptian films, and introduced folk fantasy films into Arabic cinema.

The Red Sea Film Festival was set to kick off earlier this in March, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The festival is run by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation is the first Saudi nonprofit organization with an official mandate to promote film culture and strengthen the industry.


Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes. (Photos: Instgram/ @mysloppyadventures)
Updated 01 March 2021

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
  • Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country

JEDDAH: A new generation of Saudi photographers is relying on the power of social media to showcase the Kingdom’s vast beauty.

Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country — from the sandy beaches of the east and west, to the mountains of the north and south, and the green oases of the deserts — discovering the beauty of each region one picture at a time.

Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s “hidden wonders” to a growing tourist market.

“I wanted to be part of the future somehow — that’s why I started Saudi Gate and this is what has motivated me to go on,” he told Arab News.

Many other photographers who travel the country share the same outlook.

Faisal Fahad Binzarah, 41, said: “I had to work on a few projects and went to places I had never been before. I remember thinking, where has this been all my life? I never thought I would find such gems in Saudi Arabia.”

Binzarah said that he looks for dramatic landscapes and tries to “capture the overall feeling of the place.”

He said: “The pictures I take are not unique, the uniqueness comes from the places. I am just the conveyer of the beauty and nothing else.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s ‘hidden wonders’ to a growing tourist market.

• Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“As a photographer, I try to capture the right objects at the right time, but often I feel like the beauty is not represented,” he said.

Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“Often they are amazed but also very happy because after going through the pictures they know that there is a part of the world that they must explore.”

Hadi Farah, 28, a Lebanese photographer who now lives in the Kingdom, said that he had traveled widely in Saudi Arabia and “always felt a sense of welcome and ease.”

“I think tourism is directly influenced by photographers. Whenever I upload something, I receive questions with people asking if this is really in Saudi Arabia or have I accidentally put the wrong name.

“Unfortunately, people think that it is just a desert and nothing else. So by posting pictures of these places we are educating them about possibilities and attractions they thought never existed,” he said.

Binzarah agreed, saying: “Undiscovered places are of interest for professional photographers, because they are always looking for challenges, and I think this ignites their interests to go to these places and explore.”

he added that “while the desert might be nothing new to a Saudi resident, it will be of interest to people who live in greener countries.”

Saudi Arabia, as a land of ancient civilizations, is extremely appealing for archaeologists and tourists interested in history, Binzara said.

Farah described the beauty of nature in different places, saying: “We associate beauty with life, and in our minds where there is green there is life, but we forget that there is also life in rocks and sand, and they are rich in history. So, we need to keep in mind that the beauty of AlUla is different from other areas.”

Technology is also having a major influence. Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes.

“Being on social media gives us the drive to do better,” Binzarah said. “If there is no community or people to engage with, it gets dull.”

He added: “It is a personal journey and one for everyone to discover Saudi Arabia one picture at a time.”

 


Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah. (SPA)
Updated 01 March 2021

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
  • Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts have been hailed as “professional” in a meeting between the head of KSrelief and the EU’s ambassador to the Kingdom.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), met Patrick Simonnet, head of the EU delegation to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.
During the talks in Riyadh, the two discussed issues of mutual interest related to relief and humanitarian affairs.
Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world.
KSrelief has implemented 1,536 projects worth almost $5 billion across 59 countries.
According to a recent report, the countries and territories that have benefited the most from the projects include Yemen ($3.47 billion), Palestine ($363 million), Syria ($304 million) and Somalia ($202 million).


Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, Osama, Jawaher and Haya, are all now practicing lawyers. (Supplied)
Updated 01 March 2021

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
  • Veteran lawyer Musaad Al-Saleh feels ‘sense of pride’ over children’s path

MAKKAH: Law firms in Saudi Arabia are very much a dime a dozen, but one law firm in Tabuk is showing their power through family unity.

Following one career path, three young lawyers are following their father’s footsteps in the legal profession.

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be “a family that will be difficult to approach.”

Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, 29-year-old Osama, 25-year-old Jawaher and 23-year-old Haya, are all now practicing lawyers.

“It’s common to find families that inherit the medical, business, trade, carpentry and other professions. Women did not enter the legal profession until recently, and the first license for a woman to practice law was offered about five years ago,” said Al-Saleh.

“My children have followed my line of work. Some of them have specialized in commercial law and the others in criminal law, allowing for diversity in dealing with legal issues in the law firm.”

He said that many families follow older generations into a profession, and that now, through women’s empowerment in the Kingdom, women in the family have been able to play the societal roles assigned to them, adding that he worked in the legal field for more than 25 years until retirement.

HIGHLIGHT

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be ‘a family that will be difficult to approach.’

Al-Saleh said that his two daughters graduated from the University of Tabuk’s law department, while his son graduated from Al-Jouf University. Years ago, Al-Saleh had graduated from Al-Madinah University. He stressed that he did not force any of his children to enter the field of law. Rather, it was a choice for each of them. “I only introduced them to the new opportunities awaiting Saudi female lawyers in the sector.”

Family or not, Al-Saleh said that it is business as usual, and that every member of their legal team takes their duties seriously by upholding a professional manner inside the workplace, discussing and analyzing cases, and expressing professional opinions regarding each case they receive.

Complacency, laxity or delay is unacceptable, Al-Saleh added, noting that family bonds should not interfere in the work process to ensure a healthy system.

He said that a common sentiment in the legal community is that a law firm will die with its owner. “But I wanted to change the accepted model, and I tried my best to have my children lead this law firm after me, and maintain its momentum and ensure longevity.

“Being from one family will give them the chance to learn from each other and deal with the issues more professionally.”

As a veteran lawyer, Al-Saleh said he is mostly interested in personal interviews when young men and women apply for work or training at his law firm, adding that a personal touch is important to the formation of a lawyer’s approach.

He said that female lawyers must be attentive, able to present a clear case and communicate information without ambiguity. They will face judges and members of the trial committee and disciplinary bodies — some of whom will be tough. “She must be strong, firm, voice loud and clear and make her case without hesitation.”

Al-Saleh said that he retired after 22 years of service following several positions in the Public Prosecution, and after his young children began to show interest in the legal profession.

First-generation lawyers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders, he said, adding that he “feels a sense of pride” as his children follow his path and pave their own way into the world of law.

 


Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU

Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU
The MoU was signed virtually in the presence of Amaala CEO John Pagano and his counterpart at SAFCSP, Muteb Alqany. (SPA)
Updated 01 March 2021

Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU

Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU
  • The agreement constitutes an important step toward developing the electronic services’ programs and promoting knowledge and expertise in the cybersecurity field

RIYADH: Amaala, the ultra-luxury destination on the Kingdom’s northwestern coast, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP).
The MoU will pave the way for the adoption of innovative techniques in the field of drones, programming and artificial intelligence (AI) at Amaala.
The agreement constitutes an important step toward developing the electronic services’ programs and promoting knowledge and expertise in the cybersecurity field.
The MoU was signed virtually in the presence of Amaala CEO John Pagano and his counterpart at SAFCSP, Muteb Alqany.
Pagano said: “Amaala is strongly committed to developing an exceptional luxurious destination for the most special travelers seeking unique and inspiring experiences. Therefore, using technology is essential to achieve Amaala’s aspirations and the Saudi Vision 2030, which is considered a bold reflection of the people’s ambitions, through providing new job opportunities in sectors such as technology and innovation.
“This agreement marks an important cooperation initiative between Amaala and SAFCSP that reflects our commitment to determining and adopting pioneering techniques, including AI and the Internet of Things, to ensure Amaala’s full readiness for the future.”


Saudi Arabia records 43,428 COVID-19 violations

Saudi Arabia records 43,428 COVID-19 violations
The statistics indicated that the region of Riyadh recorded the highest number with 17,789 violations. (SPA)
Updated 01 March 2021

Saudi Arabia records 43,428 COVID-19 violations

Saudi Arabia records 43,428 COVID-19 violations
  • The ministry called on citizens and residents to keep abiding by the preventive protocols and the instructions issued by authorities in this regard

RIYADH: Saudi authorities continued their monitoring campaigns to ensure compliance with the precautionary measures imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
They recorded 43,428 violations of the regulations within one week, according to recent statistics from the Ministry of Interior.
The statistics indicated that the region of Riyadh recorded the highest number with 17,789 violations, followed by Makkah (10,388), the Eastern Province (4,819), Qassim (2,513), Madinah (1,748), Tabuk (1402), Jouf (1,332), Baha (888), Hail (852), Asir (739), the Northern Borders (488), Jazan (315) and Najran (155).
The ministry called on citizens and residents to keep abiding by the preventive protocols and the instructions issued by authorities in this regard.