Saudi film talents shine at Venice Film Festival

Members of the Saudi team participating in the 78th edition of the Venice International Film Festival. (Supplied)
Members of the Saudi team participating in the 78th edition of the Venice International Film Festival. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 September 2021

Saudi film talents shine at Venice Film Festival

Members of the Saudi team participating in the 78th edition of the Venice International Film Festival. (Supplied)
  • Hani Al-Mihmadi: “Talent alone is not enough, and as long as actresses are still affected by the customs of their society, their role will remain like that of a traditional woman in society”

JEDDAH: With the aid of the Saudi Film Commission, the Red Sea International Film Festival continues to support its talents and filmmakers by taking part in the 78th edition of the Venice International Film Festival.

The festival, which launched on Wednesday, was attended by some of the most popular Saudi talents and is an opportunity for Saudis and international actors, filmmakers, directors, producers, film editors and scriptwriters to gain expertise and experience.

Saudi attendees included the actresses Fatima Al-Banawi and Sarah Messfir, and the actors Ahmed Al-Mulla, Yagoub Al-Farhan, Mujtaba Saeed and Almotaz Al-Jefris.

“Three months ago, Saudi Arabia participated with a pavilion at the Cannes Festival, and they are now present at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Through such events we can present our future plans for our cinema industry,” Mamdouh Salem, a Saudi producer and director, told Arab News.

“Our presence at Venice is a continuation of our participation at Cannes. I am hopeful that through this event we can build bridges of relationships with filmmakers around the world. Saudi Arabia is rich in historical places and diversified heritage sites, so we can also attract filmmaking businesses to shoot their future films here,” Salem said.

In Venice, the RSIFF is hosting a series of events, including a gala evening designed to celebrate women in cinema and their achievements, supporting the RISFF’s mission to drive the empowerment of women both in front of and behind the camera.

“Women make up half of the society. Their presence in all social activities has become a necessity. We now have many Saudi female directors, actors, scriptwriters, film editors, and producers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hani Al-Mihmadi, a Saudi producer and director specializing in documentaries, said that Saudi female talents were more aware and mature. However, academic training was still vital for both men and women.

“Talent alone is not enough, and as long as actresses are still affected by the customs of their society, their role will remain like that of a traditional woman in the society,” he said.

Participating Saudi filmmakers have an invaluable opportunity to gain exposure at one of the world’s top festivals, pitch future projects, connect with studios and production houses and make meaningful connections with industry professionals from around the world.

Commenting on the Saudi participation at the festival, Hana Al-Omair, director of Netflix’s first Saudi thriller original series, “Whispers,” told Arab News that the Saudi presence at such an international cinema festival was essential as it introduced Saudi cinema production progress to the world.

“It is also an opportunity to for us to globally market the Saudi talents and exchange experience with international filmmakers. The event is also of great significance in promoting the amazing Saudi locations that international directors can use for their new films,” said Al-Omair, whose “Swan Song,” film won the Golden Palm Tree Award for best actor at the Saudi Film Festival.

She added that besides networking, Saudi participants at the Venice Festival would benefit from the workshops usually held on the sidelines of such festivals.

Mohammed Al-Zahrani, an experienced actor, said that during such festivals, prominent directors, actors and actresses usually briefed the audience on their films, the difficulties they had encountered and how they managed to overcome them.

“The participants can also enrich their experience and learn more about the latest technologies in making films, especially that related to light, sound, and photography,” he said.

Running from Sept. 1-11, the Venice International Film Festival is the world’s oldest film festival and one of the big three of its kind, along with the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival.