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Inspire, inform and entertain
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 09 - 2012

Mariam Nihal
Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Film production is one of the most lucrative fields of study among students in the Kingdom.
“Saudis are making progress. It shows, because we are here and we are doing it. We are making movies and although the pace of change is slow, it is only a matter of time,” said Hanaa Saleh Alfassi, an independent filmmaker and producer living in Jeddah.
Alfassi said the country has great potential for filmmakers but they have to be passionate and patient enough to reach their goals. She admires the fact that the youth are always supportive and driven by ambition. “It would be great to have more freedom, legally, to film in different locations such as Al-Balad, Al-Khobar and Riyadh. I shoot more freely in Jeddah.”
Alfassi has won awards in American film festivals for best experimental film and best direction. Her first short movie “Loading” was released in 2010.
“I studied mass communication in Egypt and went on to studying filmmaking,” said the young producer who has worked on film projects in Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia's first female director, Haifaa Al-Mansour, recently made her debut at the Venice film festival with her movie “Wadjda.” The film follows the everyday life of Wadjda, a ten-year-old girl living in Riyadh and her attempts to break social barriers living in the Kingdom. “Wadjda” was co-produced by Rotana Studios and is also Reem Abdullah's first feature film.
The Saudi is one of the most well-known actresses in the Kingdom. She started her career on the comedy show “Tash Ma Tash.”
In May 2008, Saudi women screenwriters and directors took part in a five-day competition of Saudi films, which was regarded as the first government-sponsored film festival in the country by the Saudi Association for Culture and Art.
“Many young Saudis are willing to take the next step and have taken the initiative themselves through self-study, online courses and establishing studios at home or in an office complex,” Rawan Abdullah, a 26-year-old Saudi who is passionate about film production and hopes to see more courses in video and audio engineering in the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia has great potential for developing its youth and nurturing local talent in the media field. I hope like our neighboring GCC countries, we will follow and one day lead the path of the most exceptional filmmakers.”
Rakan Aksoy, a 27-year-old founder of Pixel Factory TV, is a young filmmaker based in Jeddah. He told Saudi Gazette his journey as a filmmaker started when he was in his early teens. Self-taught, Rakan was lucky enough to gain experience professionally working with National Geographic.
“I had officially started producing and directing by the age of 22. It was hard when we first started out, but now companies trust us enough to do our own work,” he explained.
“A lack of cinemas in the Kingdom has not stopped men or women from stepping into the field of film production. There are many uses of media and film production and I think the youths now are keen on delivering a message through their movies,” said Hussein Omar, a 25-year-old Saudi studying film production.
Omar said documentaries and short films made in the Kingdom are usually used to inspire, deliver a message, help a cause or are make people laugh.
Many filmmakers who spoke to Saudi Gazette said there is a lack of actors, scriptwriters and a weak infrastructure for moviemakers. Iman Bashar, a 23-year-old audio engineering student said, “Since there are no cinemas, there is no source of revenue from distributors and sponsors. But we have a lot of potential within the Kingdom. We can come up with acting schools, media courses that involve film production, script writing and direction to involve ourselves with the evolving film industry. After all, we want our Spielberg as well.”

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