VOX Cinemas bringing Saudi stories to film

A Saudi cinema-goer has her temperature taken as she wears a colored face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus,  at VOX Cinema hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 26, 2020. (AP)
A Saudi cinema-goer has her temperature taken as she wears a colored face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, at VOX Cinema hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 26, 2020. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 08 December 2021

VOX Cinemas bringing Saudi stories to film

A Saudi cinema-goer has her temperature taken as she wears a colored face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus,  at VOX Cinema hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 26, 2020. (AP)
  • Majid Al Futtaim backing new wave of talent, KSA chief says

JEDDAH: With more than 130 films set to be screened at the Red Sea International Film Festival, VOX Cinemas are on a mission to support and promote local films the best way they can.

The Red Sea International Film Festival kicked off its festivities at Jeddah’s UNESCO World Heritage Site old town, Al-Balad, on Dec. 6. It will run until Dec. 15, in partnership with VOX Cinemas and others.

VOX Cinemas will screen 138 feature films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages. The content was produced by established and emerging talent, with fans, film enthusiasts, filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films.

A slate of new Saudi films — 27 from an exciting wave of Saudi filmmakers — will be shown alongside the best of contemporary international cinema.

“We’re very proud to be partners of this festival, especially since this has been the first international Red Sea Film Festival taking place in Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Toni El Massih, managing director of VOX Cinemas, told Arab News.

RSIFF is a significant breakthrough for the whole industry, exhibitors, distributors and producers, he said. “This platform will help future filmmakers and storytellers know that this country is so full and rich in culture and storytelling. This is the exact platform that is needed for the talent to come across and present their project,” he added.

HIGHLIGHT

VOX Cinemas will screen 138 feature films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages. The content was produced by established and emerging talent, with fans, film enthusiasts, filmmakers and actors in attendance for many of the films.

On tour to the main VOX Cinema sites in Al-Balad that have been constructed to screen RSIFF films, Arab News spoke to Mohamed Al-Hashemi, KSA chief of Majid Al Futtaim. He said: “The Red Sea Film Festival is a statement for the Kingdom. There were no cinemas prior to April 2018, however, customers enjoyed the set of experiences as soon as they opened.

“With life coming back to normal after the COVID-19 period, the Red Sea Film Festival is a statement from the Kingdom to the world that Saudi Arabia will be a major player when it comes to local content production, demand for international content, and most importantly, demand for exhibitions as well, when it comes to the best of the best that can be offered to consumers.”

With movie theaters in more than six cities across the Kingdom in over 15 locations, VOX Cinemas operates 154 screens in Saudi Arabia. “We are considered to be the largest cinema exhibitors in the Kingdom in terms of site numbers and screen counts,” Al-Hashemi said.

Why is the screen count so important?

“The screen basically is the only platform where people can showcase local content producers on the big screen. With more big screens, more local content will be produced for the local market and the regional market, and hopefully Saudi as well to the international market,” Al-Hashemi said.

“The RSIFF is where the Kingdom can act as a local content producer and where we can bring out the folded and untold stories of this beautiful company, to the customers within Saudi,” he added.

On Dec. 6. during the inaugural red-carpet event, VOX Cinemas announced an ambitious initiative that aims to foster homegrown talent and showcase untold stories on the big screen.

A plan was made to boost regional film production and develop 25 Arabic films in the next five years.

El Massih said that many of these films would be from Saudi Arabia, with Saudi talent working as directors, producers and actors. There will also be films coming out of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

Speaking on the genres of the future films, he said: “The genre that we are focusing on and that has proven to work best is the comedy-drama. This is the sort of film that we’ll be working toward.”

As part of the initiative, VOX Cinemas will continue to support the next generation of homegrown content developers and provide resources for emerging filmmakers to bring their scripts to screen.

“This platform will search and scout for talent. It’ll be the same case later in the UAE and in other festivals that are taking place across the region.

“Accordingly, we’ll start putting a team together, building screening and writing rooms, getting stories from each of the different regions together, and then we’ll take that forward and then do the necessary films that we’ll see on the big screen,” El Massih said.

“Majid Al Futtaim has been very active in the region since 1999, starting off with exhibition, and then elevating our activities into film distribution, and recently in film production.”

Being a main contributor and partner of RSIFF is “huge,” he added, saying that such an opportunity will support emerging talent.

El Massih said: “This is the perfect platform for us to be participating and searching for the emerging talent and filmmakers that we can bring on board.”


Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour

Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour
Updated 43 sec ago

Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour

Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour
  • ‘We decided to design this experience to showcase the beauty of floriculture in the desert of Najd’

RIYADH: Saudi city dwellers are being offered the chance to get back to nature by delving into the world of plants.

The opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of life in Riyadh has been made available at a flower plantation just a 40-minute drive from the center of the capital.

Tour agency Maalim — that runs specialist trips to destinations throughout the Kingdom — has been operating trips to a farm in Al-Muzahimiyah where visitors can discover floriculture, learning how to plant and grow all kinds of flowers. 

As well as offering cultural, agricultural, and tourist trips, the travel firm plans to introduce factory tours to help promote and support Saudi businesses and products.

The popular floriculture experience has been running every Friday and Saturday since August for groups of 18 to 20 people or private parties and trips will come to a seasonal close at the end of January. 

Hessah Alajaji, founder of the Maalim agency, said: “Citizens and visitors of Saudi Arabia have never heard of this huge flower farm in Saudi Arabia. Yet it was established in 1991 and used to export produce internationally. But due to high demand in the Kingdom, it became locally distributed.

“We decided to design this experience to showcase the beauty of floriculture in the desert of Najd.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The tour is suitable for families, couples, friendship groups, and individuals and starts with an optional short bicycle ride passing by the farm’s glasshouses and wells.

• A guide then leads an indoor plantation walking tour through up to six glasshouses where visitors can watch farmers nurturing crops and learn about watering and growing methods.

“We seek opportunities and design experiences in different locations in the Kingdom for everyone to enjoy. We care about preserving nature and culture and we put a lot of effort into protecting the authenticity of the locations and tailor experiences accordingly.

“If you told me that there would be a place in Riyadh that has unique flower planting, I wouldn’t believe it,” she added. 

The tour is suitable for families, couples, friendship groups, and individuals and starts with an optional short bicycle ride passing by the farm’s glasshouses and wells. A guide then leads an indoor plantation walking tour through up to six glasshouses where visitors can watch farmers nurturing crops and learn about watering and growing methods.

Exotic plants are also featured among flower varieties including lilium, chrysanthemum, Casablanca, spray roses, and tulips and visitors are invited to pick and sample fresh vegetables along the way.

In addition, the chance to create a bouquet is available at a flower arranging session, run by Loverda Academy. A floral-themed brunch brings the tour to a climax.


Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 

Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 
Updated 18 min 43 sec ago

Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 

Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 

Faisal Al-Maghlooth has been the general director of the Saudi Export Development Authority’s Made in Saudi program since July.

The initiative, aimed at locally and globally promoting national products and services, was launched to support Saudi Arabia’s national high-quality products and reinforce their competitiveness.

Al-Maghlooth, an experienced digital media strategist with a background in leading company marketing campaigns, is also the spokesman for, and a member of, Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s digital media committee.

He started his career in 2010 as a senior sales executive at the Saudi Basic Industries Corp., where he was responsible for agricultural nutrient sales, after-sales support, and drafting marketing reports. He also provided recommendations to improve clients’ services and revenue generation capabilities.

Two years later, he became a sales executive with SABIC South Africa where he closely worked with an international client base from the African continent.

Through his ownership of Meraki, a digital content service provider, and his position as its digital marketing manager, he gained experience working across digital platforms and managing marketing campaigns, including major government-to-public campaigns and initiatives.

His digital strategy skills came into focus as he monitored competitors’ activities and played a significant role in strategizing, planning, and analyzing social media campaigns.

In 2018, he began his journey with mass media campaigns at the STC Channels as manager of external communications. He utilized multiple media channels to implement print, broadcast, digital, and face-to-face communication strategies on behalf of the company. He then moved on to become a director at Mobily, where he was responsible for the telecom firm’s digital content.

Al-Maghlooth dedicated his social media presence to promoting the national product, which led to him taking up his current job with the Made in Saudi program, where he is developing a unified national industrial brand.

For four consecutive years from 2013, he was listed on Twitter among the top 50 most influential Saudis, and he has also served as head of digital communications and production at the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority.

He gained a bachelor’s degree in technical marketing from Weber State University, in the US, in 2007, and a master’s degree in business administration from Oklahoma City University in 2009.


Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research

Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research
Updated 54 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research

Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research
  • This collaboration will include research and development initiatives in the field of diabetes in the Kingdom

RIYADH: The Saudi Health Council has signed a memorandum of understanding with French healthcare company Sanofi to collaborate on research and development initiatives in the field of diabetes in the Kingdom.

Dr. Suleiman Al-Shehri, director general of Saudi Diabetes Center, which represented the council, said: “This collaboration will serve as a great impetus in offering efficient healthcare initiatives to develop the ecosystem of diabetes management in the country.

“Sanofi and SHC will collaborate on building the nucleus of scientific research and generating local data supported by a comprehensive diabetes research network. 


Coalition not responsible for alleged Yemen airstrike violations: JIAT

JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour. (Supplied)
JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour. (Supplied)
Updated 54 min 51 sec ago

Coalition not responsible for alleged Yemen airstrike violations: JIAT

JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour. (Supplied)
  • JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour said that an investigation concluded that the procedures followed by the coalition were “proper and safe”

RIYADH: The Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) in Yemen found that the Arab military coalition was not responsible for alleged human rights violations in several airstrikes conducted in recent years.

It responded on Wednesday to four claims that were reported by media and rights groups surrounding the coalition’s alleged operational misconduct in the conflict.

JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour said that an investigation concluded that the procedures followed by the coalition were “proper and safe,” and took into consideration the rules of engagement and international humanitarian law.

The first claim surrounded an alleged attack on a sanitation facility in Zabid district that occurred between July 26-28, 2018.

On July 26 that year, coalition forces did not carry out any air missions in the Zabid district in Al Hudaydah province, Al-Mansour said, adding that the closest air mission to the location of the attack on that day was on a military target in the Bajil district, 88 kilometers from Zabid.

The JIAT spokesman said that a day later on July 27, coalition forces also did not carry out any air missions in Zabid. The closest air mission to the location of the attack that day was on a military target in Al-Tuhayta district, 15 kilometers from Zabid.

The JIAT specialists found that the airstrikes conducted over those three days — all outside Zabid — had hit their intended targets. As a result, the JIAT concluded that coalition forces did not target the sanitation facility in Zabid on those dates.

The coalition was also accused of targeting a navigation tower at Sanaa Airport on November 14, 2017.

The JIAT examined the incident and reviewed all relevant documents, including procedures and rules of engagement, daily mission schedules, after-mission reports, mission video recordings, satellite images, and provisions and principles of international humanitarian law.

The joint team found the following:

Sanaa airport is divided into a civilian section on the eastern side of the runway and a military part on the western side, where Al-Dailami Airbase is. Coalition forces received intelligence regarding the electronic capabilities of the Houthi militia in several locations, including a radar at Al-Dailami Airbase that was used to track coalition aircraft for the purpose of engaging them with air defense systems.

Reconnaissance reports confirmed the existence of a radar site at the airbase.

At 8:00 a.m. on November 14, 2017, coalition forces carried out an air mission on a legitimate military target — the radar located at Al-Dailami Airbase.

Coalition forces took all feasible precautions to avoid inflicting casualties or incidental damage to civilians and civilian objects during the planning and execution of the military operation. It did so by deploying a single guided bomb proportional to the size of the military target, with a successful direct hit.

Al-Mansour added that the coalition’s actions were in line with the Geneva Conventions and customary international humanitarian law.

The JIAT said that coalition forces did not target the commercial navigation tower in question and validated the measures taken by personnel in dealing with the legitimate military target.

Al-Mansour discussed another case dating back to 2015, where children were allegedly bombed by coalition warplanes in the Ahmadiyya neighborhood in the Khor Maksar district of Aden.

The joint team found that coalition forces did not carry out any air missions in the Khor Maksar district, with the closest target being a military site in Lahj, 18.5 kilometers away from the site in question.

The JIAT visited the site to inspect the location of the attack in the Ahmadiyya neighborhood, but found no evidence of damage resulting from an airstrike.

The JIAT also conducted thorough investigations into claims made on Jan. 28, 2021, by the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator concerning alleged civilian casualties and damage to homes and farms in Hays and Al-Durayhimi from Jan. 20-27 last year.

Hays and Al-Durayhimi, located in Al-Hudaydah, are 63 kilometers apart.

The joint team found that coalition forces did not carry out any air missions in the entirety of Al-Hudaydah during this period, concluding that it could not be held responsible for civilian casualties and damage to homes and farms in the two districts.


Thanks for the memories: American recalls Saudi childhood dream

Thanks for the memories: American recalls Saudi childhood dream
Updated 41 min 48 sec ago

Thanks for the memories: American recalls Saudi childhood dream

Thanks for the memories: American recalls Saudi childhood dream
  • Georgia man tells Arab News that growing up in the Kingdom was the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’

MAKKAH: An American who grew up in Saudi Arabia is working to correct misconceptions about the Kingdom’s culture and traditions from his home in the US after labeling his childhood “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Sid Fritts’ is passionate about the Kingdom, and spent many years living and working there.

One of his closest friends in the Kingdom, Abid Jan, told Arab News that Fritts is devoting his life to “correcting misconceptions about Saudi culture.” He added that Fritts has furnished his home with carpets and objects inspired by Saudi traditions. 

In an interview with Arab News, Fritts said: “Yes, I still have my thobe (traditional Saudi long dress) which I used to wear all the time when I was a young boy and I now have one that I wear when I receive my Saudi friends.

“My American friends love the ‘Saudi Room’ in my house, and I have so many friends in the Kingdom. I love the country, which I consider my second home.”

He added: “I have so many wonderful memories from when I lived there as a young boy. I get so emotional when I talk about it because of those memories and the friendships that I made while we were living there. 

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I am so grateful to my father because he gave me that opportunity.”

Fritts said: “When I was a young boy at Parents Cooperative School in Jeddah, I had no idea that being there would shape me into the man I am today.”

“My father served as a ground equipment manager for Saudi Arabian Airlines in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

“I’m so thankful to Saudia for giving my father that opportunity.

“The Arab people were so caring and welcoming that we never felt like foreigners.”

He added: “We collected so many things when we lived in Saudi. You could not get stuff like that in the US. These items in my home are some of my most treasured memories.” 

Fritts said that among the memories he would “never forget” was the time he remembered hearing about King Faisal being the “People’s King.”

He added: “Honestly, I was a young boy. It was and still is a dream for me to meet King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I am amazed by the transformation that Saudi Arabia has been going through since I left, especially that the memories I recall from life there as a young boy. 

“But I’m very excited in the direction that it is going. Mohammed bin Salman is doing an amazing job, especially with regards to Vision 2030.”

Fritts now lives in Canton, Georgia. His father taught Saudi workers how to operate aircraft for the flag carrier between 1978 and 1985. 

He said that he has Saudi friends in the US who visit his home and stay for weeks at a time. “My advice to Saudis would be to continue being kind people that they are and hopefully it will spread more love,” he added.

Fritts said: “I am 54 years old. I own several companies. I have owned a heating and air company for 14 years but am also co-owner of a company called Global Vision Plus, which specializes in sports and entertainment.

“We are now working on getting a project approved in the Kingdom.”