Saudi film festival hit puts the focus on female filmmakers

Saudi film festival hit puts the focus on female filmmakers
(AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 10 December 2021

Saudi film festival hit puts the focus on female filmmakers

Saudi film festival hit puts the focus on female filmmakers
  • One of the early hits of the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival is ‘Quareer,’ an anthology film featuring the work of five young, female Saudi directors
  • It tells five separate stories of Saudi women, exploring themes of abandonment, neglect, control, abuse and shame in a conservative society

JEDDAH: As the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival approaches the half-way point, one of the early hits has been a film that showcases the work of five emerging female Saudi talents.

“Quareer” is an anthology that tells five separate stories about Saudi women, exploring themes of abandonment, neglect, control, abuse and shame in a conservative society.

It is the graduation project of five young filmmakers who studied together at Jeddah's Effat University’s Visual and Digital Production department: director and producer Ragheed Al-Nahdi, director and writer Norah Almowald, director Ruba Khafagy, director and writer Fatimah Alhazmi and director Noor Alameer.

The film had its world premiere at the festival on Dec. 8 and a second screening on Dec 9. Tickets sold quickly and it was reportedly the first film to sell out. There will be a third screening on Dec.15, the festival’s final day.

Inspired by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad that men should be kind to women, “Quareer” is a drama that tells stories about Saudi women of various ages, from different time periods, and the challenges they face as they risk everything to carve out their own places in the world.

Khafagy told Arab News that she is honored to to be working with such a creative and dedicated team of friends.

“We have been together since our freshman year and we have been working on this film since 2015,” she said. “We’re proud of the result and the journey itself.

“The support we received from filmmakers and RSIFF is huge and unbelievable because, according to the festival, ‘Quareer’ was the first film to be sold out on premier day. Fully booked screens and an amazing audience — we could not wish for more.”

Almowald said the film explores a number of controversial topics and, as a result, it was difficult for the directors to present their ideas and they were rejected at first. But nothing could prevent them from realizing their vision, she added, as they all believe that great directors think big from the start.

“The idea was big for a beginner team of directors … the project was huge,” she said. “However, many international directors, great immortal ones in the history of filmmaking and cinema, started their career path through their graduation projects, including German, French and American directors.

“Independent films have a particular nostalgia … as they work their best to deliver a voice, a message or a color with the least cost possible. ‘Quareer’ is an independent film, as we and those who believed in our talent, from families and friends, have to fund it. I am so proud of how the whole team insisted on continuing with the story until it became a reality.”

In 2018, when cinemas began to reopen in Saudi Arabia after a long absence, and the launch of the Red Sea International Film Festival this year, there were no domestic festivals or other local platforms to support and share the work of young Saudi talents.

“Most student filmmakers opted to publish their graduation films online for more clicks and an audience,” said Almowald. “However, those options were not really preferable to our team as we hoped for a really wide audience and we wanted to hear feedback about our film from people face to face.”

After the directors shot their films, came the complex editing and post-production process, and for this they did receive help.

“Thanks to the Red Sea Development Fund for funding our post-production stage,” said Almowald. “This support gave us the chance to get the best outcome of our film.”

Al-Nahdi told Arab News that she and her fellow directors are proud to be part of the first Saudi film festival.

“Frankly speaking, we have been dreaming of having cinemas in the country,” she said. “Now we not only have cinemas, we have a whole film festival here in Jeddah, on the coast of the Red Sea. We are proud to have such an international film festival in the heart of the Kingdom.

“This is our first step. We hope to represent our country with many more films in the future.”