RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is unveiling two new films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The projects are part of its contribution to the Saudi Pavilion, which is being hosted by the Saudi Film Commission at the festival.
Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy will introduce his Ithra-commissioned film “Sea of Sands” alongside the unveiling of Saudi independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad’s “Valley Road.”
The films are part of Ithra’s commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries.
Both movies, which are being produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, are scheduled for release in 2023.
Ithra said the cast and crew for both would consist of aspiring Saudi talent, which would nurture a generation of film creatives.
They follow the successful international release of Ithra’s first commissioned film “Joud,” which is described as “an unconventional meditation on the cycle of life” and an “ancient poem for modern times.”
The film uses an experimental story structure derived from a pre-Islamic form of poetry, the qasida, and is dialogue-free. It was shot in 16 locations across Saudi Arabia and screened at several international film festivals.
“Ithra Film Productions is a leading indie film producer in Saudi Arabia,” said Majed Z. Samman, head of performing arts and cinema at Ithra and producer of both new films. “We support the Kingdom’s growing film industry by nurturing homegrown talent and fostering cinema and filmmaking in Saudi Arabia. We are honored to announce our next two projects at one of the world’s most prestigious film fairs as part of the Saudi Pavilion at Cannes Film Festival.”
Hefzy has written, produced and co-produced nearly 40 feature films in Egypt, the US, the UK and the Arab world.
“Sea of Sands” is a coming-of-age story about a young Bedouin orphan and a camel who form a special bond and embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia.
“Ithra has played a significant role in supporting independent filmmakers from Saudi Arabia at a critical time just as the Kingdom’s booming film industry begins to take shape,” said Hefzy. “I am thrilled to work with them and all the Saudi and Arab talent who will be joining this exciting project.”
The film will be shot in various locations across Saudi Arabia.
“Valley Road” follows the journey of an autistic man called Ali who gets lost on his way to see a doctor. He finds himself alone in the middle of nowhere, but a series of obstacles and challenges cannot stop him from discovering the world ahead of him.
Apart from Ithra’s commissioned films, the center is also the driving force behind several initiatives supporting the Kingdom’s film industry.
Ithra Cinema provides a space for the country’s film talent to hone their skills and showcase their work.
It is home to initiatives and programs such as Saudi Film Production, Saudi Film Days, and the Ithra Film Society.
Ithra is also the cradle of the annual Saudi Film Festival, which supports local talent and focuses on content development.
Ithra Film Productions has produced 20 films, of which 15 have won local, regional and international awards.
The center also offers people a learning experience through a training and shadowing program, providing an opportunity for those who are passionate about filmmaking to craft their career in the field.