Saudi Arabia announces inaugural $100m film fund at Cannes Film Festival

The Saudi Cultural Development Fund’s Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Najla AlNomair (second from right), participates in the Cannes Film Festival’s Saudi Ecosystem panel discussion. (Supplied)
The Saudi Cultural Development Fund’s Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, Najla AlNomair (second from right), participates in the Cannes Film Festival’s Saudi Ecosystem panel discussion. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 May 2023
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Saudi Arabia announces inaugural $100m film fund at Cannes Film Festival

Najla AlNomair (second from right), participates in the Cannes Film Festival’s Saudi Ecosystem panel discussion. (Supplied)
  • Investment aims to initiate a series funding for film and media development, production, distribution, talent development
  • CDF aims to enable the financial sector to participate in the growth of the film sector, AlNomair says

CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Development Fund unveiled a historic $100 million film sector fund to foster the growth of local film and media at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. 

The launch of the inaugural Film Investment Fund for local and international investors came in the wake of an announcement of a separate $80 million fund that will target local film and media production, distribution and infrastructure. 

The CDF has now partnered with MEFIC Capital and holding company ROAA Media Ventures to establish the Film Investment Fund, budgeted at $100 million. 

Najla AlNomair, chief strategy and business development officer of the Cultural Development Fund, told Arab News: “Through the Film Investment Program we launched today, Saudi Cultural Development Fund aims to enable the financial sector to participate in the growth of the film sector and help financial institutions to be able to provide financing to areas which they had not considered before.” 

The fund aims to initiate a series of rounds of funding for film and media development, production, distribution, and talent development. 

Redha Alhaidar, chairman of ROAA Media Ventures, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia’s media and entertainment sector is rapidly evolving and plays an important part in the Kingdom’s cultural and economic transformation. 

“But we need to address three main obstacles to its growth: limited access to financial resources and international partnerships, infrastructure constraints, and talent shortages. 

“There is a wealth of untapped creative talent in Saudi Arabia and across the wider Middle East. By investing in local film projects, skills development and industry infrastructure, we can help unleash the region’s storytelling potential and support the creation of authentic, high-quality content that attracts international investment and competes on the global stage.” 

The CDF has exerted great efforts to bolster creatives through various programs since its establishment, including the launch of its film sector financing program initiative earlier this year, involving a $234 million budget. 

AlNomair added: “Our doors are open, and our confidence in the Saudi film industry potential is deep.

“We at Saudi have funding to provide, we have local talents that are eager to grow, and we have amazing shooting locations. We have incentives, both financial and non-financial, and we have a supportive ecosystem that coordinates, aligns and complements all of these enabling factors.”

With a cinema box office estimated to reach $950 million by 2030, Saudi Arabia has shown itself a valuable business player in a global market.

AlNomair joined film industry insiders from the Kingdom in a panel discussion to hone in on the ever-growing industry and what it takes to create a competitive environment.

The annual Red Sea International Film Festival has helped place Saudi on the global stage, by financially backing a number of international productions, including this year’s Cannes Film Festival opener “Jeanne du Barry.”

In addition, NEOM Media Village and Film AlUla’s production studios provide space and crews for international projects, attracting Hollywood productions to film in the unique landscape of the area.

The industry’s attributes were discussed at the panel in Cannes, while participants also highlighted the benefits of the Saudi Film Commission’s training programs which last year exceeded goals by training 1,300 filmmakers across the country.

However, while more than 6 percent of the world’s population is Arab, less than 1 percent of content is in Arabic, largely due to fragmentation, dispersal of talent, and a scattered industry.

Nevertheless, AlNomair said: “Today is a major milestone for the Saudi film sector, and a window in which we welcome the global industry to join us in the journey for the development of the Saudi film sector.”