Lights, camera, action as Saudi Film Fest returns

Updated 22 March 2016

Lights, camera, action as Saudi Film Fest returns

RIYADH: A drama about an attack on a mosque is headlining the third Saudi Film Festival, which opens Thursday at an arts and cultural center in the Gulf coast city of Dammam

The festival will feature 70 productions in competition.
Saudi Arabia bans cinemas but organizers hope the event will help develop the country’s nascent film industry.
“We try to raise the standards, to make it better,” festival director Ahmed AlMulla told AFP.
The festival will culminate on Monday night with winners of the juried competition receiving its Golden Palm Tree awards.
It is the second consecutive annual festival after the event resumed last year following an absence of seven years.
AlMulla said this year’s festival has more entries than in 2015, and of a higher quality. They will be shown on a bigger screen with an improved sound system.
Rakan AlHarbi’s four-minute drama “Their Stained Hearts” will be one of three short films shown to hundreds of guests expected at the red-carpet opening gala.
The film tells the story of a museum for “terrorists” — where a visitor engages in a conversation with the attacker of a mosque.
Saudi Arabia has suffered a series of shootings and bombings of mosques, which have killed some 40 people since late 2014. The Daesh group claimed many of the attacks.
AlMulla said the films in competition address a range of topics, from extremism and war to health, human rights and social issues.
Some of the films provide a forum for the kingdom’s youth who “raise their voice about how they are living,” he said.
Interest in filmmaking has continued to grow, with the 70 productions chosen for this year’s festival coming from 112 entries in the drama, documentary and student categories.
Last year 66 productions were in competition from 104 entries.
Many of the films will be shown for the first time and all the competitors are Saudi.
Fifty-five scripts not yet in production will also be judged, up from 34 last time. Festival winners receive grants to help them pursue their cinematic passions.
Workshops on production, cinematography and acting, to be conducted in conjunction with the festival, were deluged with applicants.
“In six hours we had more than 600 registered,” AlMulla said.
The non-profit festival is organized by the kingdom’s Society for Culture and Arts.
Saudi films have been shown in major international festivals and in 2013 Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadjda” became the kingdom’s first film to be listed as a candidate for a foreign-language Oscar.


Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

Updated 31 May 2020

Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

  • India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic

AGRA, India: A deadly thunderstorm that rolled across parts of northern India damaged sections of the Taj Mahal complex, including the main gate and a railing running below its five lofty domes, officials said Sunday.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic.
AFP images showed workers assessing the railing of the main mausoleum, after the storm on Friday night battered Agra city in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“One sandstone railing which was a part of the original structure has been damaged,” Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, said.
“One marble railing which was a later addition, a false ceiling in the tourist holding area and the base stone of the main gate has also been damaged.”
He added there was no damage to the main structure of the monument to love — built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth in 1631.
Local media reports said thunderstorms and lightning on Friday killed at least 13 people in two Uttar Pradesh districts.
Fatal lightning strikes are relatively common during the June-October monsoon season.
Last year, at least 150 people were killed by lightning in August and September in Madhya Pradesh state in central India.