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.


Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 906 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 8 mosques reopened in 3 regions after being sterilized after some people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 16 new COVID-19 related deaths on Saturday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,553.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,077 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 464,780 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 10,267 remain active and 1,562 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 348, followed by the capital Riyadh with 225, the Eastern Province with 149, Asir recorded 97, and Jazan confirmed 70 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 906 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 446,960.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened eight mosques in three regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after some people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,555 within 126 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 176 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.80 million.


Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents
Updated 51 min 50 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents
  • The decision was made due to the coronavirus pandemic

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said it will limit registration for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to citizens and residents of the Kingdom in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ministries of Health and Hajj announced Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year, which will begin mid-July.
It stressed that those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and to be within the ages from 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures. 
Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.
The decision is “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah,” the ministry said. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”
Meanwhile, a deputy to the Hajj minister said that Saudi Arabia found great understanding from Muslim countries over the decision to limit this year’s pilgrimage participants.
Nayef Al-Hajraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, praised the “generous care” accorded by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to serve pilgrims and visitors of the Two Holy Mosques.
He said the decision to limit this year’s pilgrimage stems from the utmost attention that the Kingdom gives to the health and safety of pilgrims.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Muslim World League (MWL) also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision.
Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-​Issa, MWL secretary-general, said that a number of senior Mufti and scholars of the Islamic world also welcomed the decision, adding that Sharia (Islamic) law states that it is imperative to take all safety precautions during such pandemics.
The UAE said it supports the Kingdom in all steps and measures it is taking as part of efforts to combat the pandemic, limit its spread, and preserve the safety and security of pilgrims and society.
Minister of State Khalifa Shaheen Almarar praised the great progress made by the Kingdom in the field of science in combatting COVID-19, saying that Saudi Arabia’s “recent scientific achievements demonstrated the extent of its awareness of the importance of science, which is a key driver in supporting the health sector and facing great challenges.”


Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

RIYADH: Saudi ministries have launched an e-service that allows visitors coming to the Kingdom to extend the validity of their unused or expired visitor visas due to a travel ban imposed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Kingdom will allow a cost-free extension, granted on the directives of King Salman, for those who were suspended from entry to 20 countries previously announced in February.  
The initiative launched by the Saudi foreign and interior ministries and the General Directorate of Passports would allow the extension of visas until July 31, 2021.
Travelers who wish to extend their visitor visa can head to ministry’s e-platform to perform the necessary extension.


Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties
Abdulrahman Hamdi, backed by his mother, his biggest supporter, secured an ‘amazing opportunity’ to work for Premier Stagers, a leading US luxury staging and interior design company. (Supplied)
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties
  • Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million

JEDDAH: A Saudi artist is making a name for himself in Hollywood after his paintings were selected to adorn the walls of some of the famous Los Angeles neighborhood’s most luxurious properties.

Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million.

Every day, one sees something new in an abstract painting and feels more of it.
Abdulrahman Hamdi

Hamdi, backed by his mother, his biggest supporter, secured an “amazing opportunity” to work for Premier Stagers, a leading US luxury staging and interior design company, a breakthrough that has helped to provide a shopwindow for his paintings.
And his American success story does end there: A Los Angeles-based real estate magazine has published one of his works on its front cover, and Vogue Arabia ran an article about Hamdi accompanied by a picture of another of his paintings.
His artistic talents were first spotted by his kindergarten teachers but at elementary school he said students paid more attention to football and his tutors often frowned on his drawings.
Now living in Los Angeles, Hamdi, who gained a master’s degree in law, told Arab News that he had been obsessed with fine art from an early age.
“At the time, my kindergarten peers were waiting for the physical education class, while I was counting hours for the arts class to begin. I used to save up money (to buy painting tools) from the amounts I received from my relatives on Eid occasions.”
Abstractionism slowly began to capture his interest and he started displaying his artwork on social media platforms, such as Instagram, with the hope of one day becoming a professional artist.
“I consider abstract art, with its broad scope, as an interesting art. Every day, one sees something new in an abstract painting and feels more of it,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• At first, Hamdi felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.

• Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.

However, in late 2014, Hamdi was involved in a traffic accident that completely changed his outlook on life.
“I was locked up in memories and pains. I even failed to express my feelings in words. I became completely destroyed. I then realized that drawing was the only way to take me out of my sufferings.
“When the unpleasant event was over, colors began to mean something else to me, and I began to deal with them differently,” he added.
At first, he felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.
Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.


New Saudi fashion forum to launch next week with live event in New York and Riyadh

Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
Updated 12 June 2021

New Saudi fashion forum to launch next week with live event in New York and Riyadh

Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
  • The Kingdom’s Fashion Commission has redesigned the groundbreaking Fashion Futures initiative as an interactive digital platform
  • The inaugural event, Fashion Futures Live: Moving Towards Sustainability, Diversity and Innovation, takes place on June 17

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission has announced a new digital initiative that will launch next week with an event that will be broadcast live from Riyadh and New York.
Fashion Futures, which was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom, will be relaunched as a digital platform on June 17 with Fashion Futures Live: Moving Towards Sustainability, Diversity and Innovation.
The event, which will take place simultaneously in the Kingdom and the US, will be streamed online to participants through a specially designed, interactive virtual platform. It is being presented in cooperation with Fashinnovation, a global platform for sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship in fashion.
The organizers of Fashion Futures says its aim is “to bring together fashion’s most inspiring leaders, digital distributors and design mavericks for unprecedented conversations surrounding innovation and sustainability.”
Notable international speakers due to appear at the event include: Susan Rockefeller, the president and trustee of Oceana, a non-profit marine-conservation foundation; Rebecca Minkoff, a fashion designer and author of “Fearless: The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage, and Success;” Oskar Metsavaht, an environmental activist and founder of fashion brand Osklen; Helen Aboah, the CEO of luxury lifestyle brand Urban Zen; and Abrima Erwiah, co-founder of Studio One Eighty Nine, a social enterprise that promotes and curates African fashion.
The discussions will cover topics such as diversity, sustainable-development goals, entrepreneurship and innovation in the fashion industry. They will be moderated by Fashinnovation co-founder Jordana Guimaraes from New York City, and Taghrid Alhowish, a TV presenter and producer from Dubai.
“We are honored to host some of the world’s greatest minds in business sustainability to discuss the pressing issues we are facing today, especially the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Fashion Commission.
“And since there is no sector that has not been affected by it, virtual platforms such as Fashion Futures enable discussions to break down barriers by engaging experts from all over the world in this critical dialogue, and by collaborating and exchanging ideas we can draw on a wide range of expertise and strive toward a sustainable global fashion industry.”
He said that Saudi Arabia can serve as an example of how to build an innovative, sustainable and appropriate fashion sector, locally and internationally. By working with innovators in the sector, attracting retail experiences and establishing partnerships for education, business development and entrepreneurship, he added, the Kingdom will be able to develop the processes and brands of local businesses to improve them in line with international best practices.
In addition to broadcasting talks and discussions, the Fashion Futures platform will also offer training courses and workshops, with the aim of providing a fertile environment for the exchange of knowledge, innovation and ideas. Another live event is scheduled to take place in December in Riyadh.
The Fashion Commission is one of 11 Saudi cultural bodies established in February last year by the Ministry of Culture to oversee the development and success of cultural sub-sectors.
With the Fashion Futures initiative, the commission aims to lead the way in achieving a more globally sustainable fashion sector, in addition to developing the local fashion industry.