Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry

Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry
AlUla is beginning to attract a growing number of international and regional productions. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry

Saudi Film Commission launches incentive program to boost local film and creative industry
  • Incentive program will offer financial refunds of up to 40 percent for local and international producers shooting in the Kingdom
  • SFC CEO Abdullah Al Ayyaf: We are happy to welcome local, regional and international production companies to apply for the incentive program and produce in the Kingdom

CANNES: The Saudi Film Commission has announced an incentive program offering financial refunds of up to 40 percent for local and international producers shooting in the Kingdom.

The program provides significant support to local, regional and international film producers for shows and movies shot in Saudi Arabia, thereby boosting the film and production industry and creative economy in the Kingdom.

The commission has called on both Saudi and international production companies that are planning to partially or fully shoot in Saudi Arabia to apply for the incentive program through the website www.film.sa.

They will then be able to benefit from the financial refunds of up to 40 percent of expenses eligible for incentives according to criteria that include cooperating with local staff and talents and highlighting geographical and cultural landmarks in the Kingdom.

Abdullah Al Ayyaf, CEO of the commission, said: “We are happy to welcome local, regional and international production companies to apply for the incentive program and produce in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

He added that the Saudi film industry is growing as the Kingdom continues to “invest in developing the local efficiencies, infrastructure and regulations to ensure our ability to support all business sectors.”

Over the last 18 months, Saudi Arabia has hosted three major Hollywood productions: Ric Roman Waugh’s action thriller “Kandahar” filmed in AlUla; Rupert Wyatt’s historical epic “Desert Warrior” shot in Neom, and the Russo Brothers’ crime drama “Cherry” shot in AlUla and the capital Riyadh.

In the last year, eight local features have been produced and are now ready to be aired at leading film festivals, along with various documentaries, commercials and local productions including “Norah” written and directed by Tawfik Alzaidi and “Within Sand” directed by Moe Alatawi.
Both films were recipients of a fund award at the Saudi Film Commission’s Daw Film Competition, an initiative launched by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture to support Saudi film production.

The announcement was made during the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.


Philippine government orders Maria Ressa’s Rappler news website to close

Philippine government orders Maria Ressa’s Rappler news website to close
Updated 29 June 2022

Philippine government orders Maria Ressa’s Rappler news website to close

Philippine government orders Maria Ressa’s Rappler news website to close
  • The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist said the organization will challenge the order, which was issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission
  • In an internal memo, she told Rappler staff: ‘It is business as usual for us since, in our view, this is not immediately executory without court approval’

DUBAI: The Philippine government has ordered Nobel Peace Prize laureate and journalist Maria Ressa’s online news organization, Rappler, to shut down.

Ressa revealed the development on Tuesday as she gave the keynote address at an event in Hawaii, according to media reports. She said the decree was issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The reason for the order is likely related to Rappler’s coverage of the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte. It has been critical of his regime, exposing details of his violent war on drugs and the government’s use of disinformation.

Ressa said Rappler will challenge the order to close, which “affirmed” an earlier decision to revoke the media organization’s certificates of incorporation.

“We are entitled to appeal this decision and will do so, especially since the proceedings were highly irregular,” she said.

She also distributed an internal memo to Rappler staff, according to Hawaii News Now, in which she said: “It is business as usual for us since, in our view, this is not immediately executory without court approval.”

Ressa was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for using used her platform to raise awareness of Duterte’s alleged abuses. It was shared with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, who was honored for the decades he has spent defending freedom of speech in Russia.

Throughout her career, Ressa has faced significant backlash from the Philippine government. In June 2020, she was convicted in the country of “cyber libel” and could face prison time. The case was just one of many brought against Rappler which, as of December last year, faced seven active prosecutions.

Rappler has been praised for its coverage of Duterte’s war on drugs, along with its stories about developments in social media and technology, especially the spread of fake news and the need for regulation.

In October last year, Ressa appeared as a guest on an episode of US TV show “The Problem with Jon Stewart,” during which she appealed for “guardrails around the technology.”

She also explained the three pillars on which Rappler was built: regulating technology, supporting independent journalism, and building community.

“These are the lifeblood of democracy,” she added.


Instagram hides some posts that mention abortion

Instagram hides some posts that mention abortion
Updated 28 June 2022

Instagram hides some posts that mention abortion

Instagram hides some posts that mention abortion
  • Instagram covered a post on one page with more than 25,000 followers that shared text reading: “Abortion in America How You Can Help”
  • The Associated Press identified nearly a dozen other posts that mentioned the word “abortion” and were subsequently covered up by Instagram

WASHINGTON: Instagram is blocking posts that mention abortion from public view, in some cases requiring its users to confirm their age before letting them view posts that offer up information about the procedure.
Over the last day, several Instagram accounts run by abortion rights advocacy groups have found their posts or stories hidden with a warning that described the posts as “sensitive content.”
In one example, Instagram covered a post on one page with more than 25,000 followers that shared text reading: “Abortion in America How You Can Help.” The post went on to encourage followers to donate money to abortion organizations and to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to strip constitutional protections for abortion in the US
The post was slapped with a warning from Instagram that covered the post, reading “This photo may contain graphic or violent content.”
Berlin photographer Zoe Noble has run the Instagram page, which celebrates women who decide not to have children, for more than a year. Monday was the first time a post mentioning abortion was restricted by Instagram.
“I was really confused because we’ve never had this happen before, and we’ve talked about abortion before,” Noble said. “I was really shocked that the word abortion seemed to be flagged.”
The platform offers no way for users to dispute the restriction.
The Associated Press identified nearly a dozen other posts that mentioned the word “abortion” and were subsequently covered up by Instagram. All of the posts were informational in nature, and none of the posts featured photos of abortions. An Instagram post by an AP reporter that asked people if they were experiencing the problem was also covered by the company on Tuesday, and required users to enter their age in order to view it.
The AP inquired about the problem on Tuesday morning. Hours later, Instagram’s communication department acknowledged the problem on Twitter, describing it as a glitch.
“We’re hearing that people around the world are seeing our ‘sensitivity screens,’ on many different types of content when they shouldn’t be. We’re looking into this bug and working on a fix now,” the company tweeted.
A spokesman for Instagram-owner Meta Platforms Inc. said in an email that the company does not place age restrictions around its abortion content.
Instagram’s latest issue follows a Monday AP report that Facebook and Instagram were promptly deleting posts that offered to mail out abortion pills in states that restrict their use. The tech platforms said they were deleting the posts because they violated policies against selling or gifting certain products, including pharmaceuticals, drugs and firearms.
The AP’s review found that similar posts offering to mail a gun or marijuana were not removed by Facebook. The company did not respond to questions about the discrepancy.


Mastercard launches ‘Priceless’ music album 10-song release available first on Spotify

A Mastercard logo is seen on a credit card in this picture illustration. (REUTERS)
A Mastercard logo is seen on a credit card in this picture illustration. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 June 2022

Mastercard launches ‘Priceless’ music album 10-song release available first on Spotify

A Mastercard logo is seen on a credit card in this picture illustration. (REUTERS)
  • As part of the Beatclub collaboration, Mastercard will purchase and provide one-year Beatclub memberships for hundreds of up-and-coming creators from disenfranchised communities

DUBAI: Mastercard unveiled its first-ever music album, “Priceless,” at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last week.

The album, available first on Spotify and then other streaming platforms, features 10 songs by 10 artists from around the world, with each song incorporating the recognizable melody of the Mastercard jingle.

“Our first-ever music album featuring the inspiring, original work of 10 rising stars takes our innovative sonic branding approach to an even higher, unmatched level,” said Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer.

“From Algeria to Australia and Slovenia to Sweden, each of the artists integrated our melody into their songs and created something that we are all truly proud of. We hope others will enjoy these songs as much as we do,” he added.

To further its commitment to music and emerging talent, Mastercard partnered with producer Timbaland’s Beatclub music creator platform. Inspired by the original songs developed for Mastercard’s album, up-and-coming Beatclub creators were mentored by Timbaland as they remixed two standout tracks.

As part of the Beatclub collaboration, Mastercard will purchase and provide one-year Beatclub memberships for hundreds of up-and-coming creators from disenfranchised communities.

For Timbaland, the partnership was a “natural fit” given the companies’ “mutual goal of supporting artists and the industry.”

He said: “Together we’re elevating emerging artists through the power of music and mentorship. Providing platforms, tools and connections for creators to pursue their passions opens doors for countless artists to break into an industry that is often impenetrable.”

Mastercard collaborated closely with executive producer Niclas Molinder to find artists from different cultures, languages and genres. Each artist was tasked with incorporating the brand’s melody into the song, demonstrating how audio branding can be used innovatively.

The full album will feature tracks from up-and-coming artists including Michael Rice (UK), Shiraz (Lebanon), Good Harvest (Sweden), Alma Lake (Colombia/USA), Raees (Algeria), Tejas (India), Nadine Randle (UK/Sweden), Tania (Australia), Elle B. (USA) and Amaya (Slovenia).

Sonic or audio branding has existed in different forms, from radio jingles to podcasts, with brands looking to cut through the clutter in innovative ways.

Mastercard has already established a relationship with the music industry through the Priceless platform, working with artists like Jennifer Hudson and SZA, among others.

The new album was introduced at a launch party with Mastercard’s exclusive launch partner, Spotify.


Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal

Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal
Updated 28 June 2022

Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal

Egyptian judge detained in suspected murder of anchorwoman wife Shaima Jamal
  • 32-year-old TV presenter was found shot dead and buried in a villa
  • Husband of deceased reported to local authorities his wife went missing over a week ago

DUBAI: Egyptian prosecutors have arrested a judge over his alleged involvement in killing his 32-year-old wife, TV anchor Shaima Jamal, and burying her in a villa in Al-Mansouria area, local media has reported.
Reports said Al-Geeza authorities found Jamal’s body buried under a villa farm on Monday after she had been reported missing by her husband over a week ago.
It was said that the husband alleged in his missing person’s report that she had last been seen in a commercial complex in the 6th of October area.
In a three-minute video posted on Al-Hadath Twitter page, renowned broadcaster Amro Adib said that Jamal entered a coiffeur shop and never left.
After being missing for nearly a week, Egyptian authorities found her shot dead and buried in a villa farm in Al-Geeza province.
Local media said prosecutors’ investigations alleged that her husband was involved in her murder following marital disputes.
It was also reported that a witness testified before prosecutors that he had close ties with the husband and “was aware that the husband was allegedly involved in the murder over marital disputes since he witnessed the circumstances and knows where she was buried.”
Prosecutors summoned some of Jamal’s family members, who testified that she “vanished while she was with her husband.”
Due to his work as a judge, which grants him immunity, prosecutors obtained special permission to question the husband and issued an arrest warrant.
Egyptian authorities did not release any details on how the murder happened despite unsubstantiated rumors circulating on social media that her body was subject to alleged abuse and disfigurement after she was shot. It has only been confirmed that the investigation is ongoing.
Prosecutors said they gathered evidence that corroborated the witness account pertaining to the body’s whereabouts.
Crime scene investigators and prosecutors accompanied the witness and a forensic examiner to the villa where Jamal’s body was found buried. The witness admitted that he collaborated in the crime before he was detained.
Born in 1980, Jamal presented several TV shows, the most famous of which was “Al-Mushaghiba” on LTC satellite channel. She was suspended in 2017 for allegedly using heroin during a live episode about drug addiction before later clarifying that it was “soft sugar powder that she took for acting purposes and not heroin.” She was then nicknamed the “Heroin Anchor.”
She also worked for Egypt’s Al-Hadath Al-Youm.


Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES

Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES
Updated 28 June 2022

Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES

Disney cancels exclusive Disney+ streaming deal with Israel’s YES

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Competition Authority said on Tuesday it closed a case against Walt Disney and Bezeq Israel Telecom’s satellite TV unit YES after the companies agreed to cancel an exclusive streaming deal.
Disney Israel launched its Disney+ streaming service in Israel earlier this month and it had forged an exclusive deal with YES to offer the service rather than make deals as well with cable company HOT and Internet-based TV operators.
The companies had applied for permission from the Competition Authority, which looked into the matter.
The agency said that on Monday, the companies withdrew their request for exclusivity.
“Disney has made it clear to the Commissioner that it is free to negotiate and enter into any agreement regarding the distribution of Disney+ broadcasts with competitors of YES,” the authority said.