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Saudis in Cannes: Promoting country's flourishing film industry
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 19 - 05 - 2022

The Saudi Film Commission (SFC) is participating in the 75th edition of the Cannes International Film Festival, which runs from 17-28 May, to build awareness of the country's rapidly developing film industry, showcase its unique cinematic and pristine locations, and champion new and exciting talent in a drive to become a world-class hub for film and TV production.
Located in the International Village, the Saudi Pavilion will be the epicenter of information, events, panel discussions, and networking, bringing together country partners who are making great strides in building the industry and enhancing the ecosystem in the Kingdom.
The Saudi Film Commission will be joined by partners from across the Saudi film sector including the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF), Film AlUla (the Royal Commission for AlUla's film agency), the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA), the media hub of Neom, and Ithra (King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture). MBC GROUP, the largest media company in the Middle East & North Africa region will be also present at the pavilion this year.
They are joined by other entities covering several sectors of the media and entertainment industry including production, distribution, content creation and talent development.
A delegation of promising Saudi film talent shaping the filmmaking culture of Saudi Arabia will also head to Cannes showcasing the best of the rapidly flourishing filmmaking scene. They will present their work at the Short Film Corner, a successful sidebar to the Festival organized by the Marché du Film and designed to give a new generation of filmmakers a platform on the global stage.
Abdullah Al Eyaf, CEO of the Saudi Film Commission said: "We are thrilled to return to the Cannes Film Festival to connect with the international film industry to build awareness around what is happening in our flourishing creative sector and to showcase the country as a truly unique and exciting film destination. The Festival is the perfect platform to champion emerging talent who will showcase their work on the big screen to the global film industry. This is an exciting time for Saudi Arabia, and Cannes provides a crucial opportunity for us to maximize opportunities as we drive the rapid growth of the industry."
The Saudi Film Commission also presents the 'State of Arabia' Conference at the Marché du Film featuring Saudi producer and director Aymen Khoja, Egyptian producer Mohammed Hefzy, and Tunisian director Lotfy Nathan who makes his feature debut with 'Harka' a recipient of the RSIFF's Red Sea Souk Award and screening as part of the Festivals Certain Regard section. The panel will explore the future of Arab cinema and discuss the opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed in order to build a robust industry that will elevate Arab cinema and command the attention it deserves.
Film AlUla will also take to the stage to introduce the country as a global film hub at the American Pavilion joined by Stephen Strachan, Film AlUla, Abduljalil Alnasser, General Manager of Sector Development and Investment Attraction at the Saudi Film Commission, Wayne Borg, Managing Director Media Industries, Entertainment & Culture at NEOM, Zeinab Abu Alsamh, General Manager of MBC Studios, Matt Rhodes, Producer & President at The Hideaway Entertainment and Christian Mercuri, CEO of Capstone.
The group will discuss the international and regional ambitions to become a production powerhouse, huge internal investment combined with a strong financial incentive offering, and a film-friendly ecosystem to support productions in an exciting new destination for filmmakers.
Over the last 18 months Saudi Arabia has provided the backdrop for three major Hollywood films, Ric Roman Waugh's action thriller 'Kandahar' filmed in the extraordinary landscape of AlUla, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, and Jeddah, Rupert Wyatt's historical epic 'Desert Warrior' shot in the incredible new city state of Neom and the region of Tabuk, and the Russo Brothers' crime drama 'Cherry' shot in AlUla and the capital Riyadh.
In addition, 8 local feature films have reached completion in the last 12 months and ready to hit the festival circuit along with a slate of 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 in September 2019 to support Saudi film production and champion the next generation of filmmakers by establishing a sustainable funding program to bring Saudi content to the screen and wider global audiences.
The country hosts two film festivals annually: the Saudi Film Festival, now in its 8th edition, has grown to become a crucial springboard for exciting new voices and the Red Sea International Film Festival which enjoyed a successful first edition in 2021 showcasing 136 films representing 68 countries in 35 languages including 28 World Premieres with 38% of the program made up of female filmmakers and 27 homegrown features and shorts from exciting new Saudi voices. — SG


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