JEDDAH: The Saudi film industry has enjoyed significant growth in the past few years, with the rise of thriving Saudi talent indicating the Kingdom’s global reach in the industry.
Filmmakers and actors have received support from the Saudi Film Commission to enhance their efforts, which has accelerated production, marketed Saudi films domestically and overseas, and encouraged investment in development.
Netflix is among the best platforms for promoting Saudi films to a global audience.
The streaming service has partnerships with two of the most important Saudi film companies: A seven-year exclusive deal with animation studio Myrkott to produce Saudi-focused content, and a partnership with production and financing group Telfaz11 for eight new films.
Netflix — Middle East and North Africa has recently introduced a great range of Saudi content to regional, international and non-English-speaking audiences.
The world-leading streaming service shared an updated list of all the Saudi films and series being streamed, including dramas, comedies, cartoons, community-based stories, horror films, romances and teen movies.
Titles include “Six Windows in the Desert”, “Whispers”, “Masameer the Movie,” and “Carnival City.”
Faris Godus, a Saudi film writer and producer of “The Book of Sun,” told Arab News: “The film did great in cinemas, selling more than 100,000 tickets which got Netflix’s interest. It is the most streamed film in Saudi Arabia.”
The film attracted critical acclaim and huge audiences in Saudi theaters in 2020, two years after cinemas were reopened in the Kingdom. The film, which was also streamed on Netflix, was one of the most trending pieces in Saudi Arabia.
Godus said that he strongly believes that streaming services help films to be approached by a wider audience. However, nothing can replace movie theaters.
“I think streaming services are the replacement for physical media, it is where a film would eventually reach the masses, especially in countries where the film is not available in theaters. However, it should not replace cinemas. Movies should be collectively experienced. It is what creates a dialogue between communities.”
Godus added that he and the cast were happy to stream the film on one of the biggest video streaming services and expressed how satisfied he was with the response.
“Although the film is not a Netflix original, it really did well on Netflix. I’m very satisfied. Until its last day, tickets were sold out.”
He said that the film industry in Saudi Arabia is very promising.
“What I like about this period is that everyone is still experimenting (with) new ideas, every short and feature film is fresh, and the momentum of Saudi film growth every year is just astonishing.”
In a previous interview with Arab News, Majed Samman, head of performing arts and cinema at The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), said: “Ithra has produced more films in Saudi Arabia than any other entity. Including 20 films to date for the past three years now, two feature films and 18 short films. Most of these films are now on Netflix, Shahad and Saudi airlines.”
“Wasati,” a Saudi comedy-adventure film directed by Ali Kalthami, was the first Ithra movie to stream on Netflix in 2016.
Samman, who is also a Saudi filmmaker, producer, actor and editor, said that there are four other Saudi films produced by Ithra that are streaming on Netflix: “Is Sumiyati Going to Hell?”, “Predicament in Sight”, “Zero Distance,” and “Last Visit.”
Samman believes that Netflix is an effective way to reach a global audience, adding: “We are aiming to have participation in international film festivals to reach more audiences.”
Saudi Arabia recently hosted the first iconic Red Sea International Film Festival in its first tournament in Jeddah’s Al-Balad district.
The festival featured world premieres of selected films made by the Kingdom’s up-and-coming talent, with 138 films from over 60 countries in total.