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Filmmaking arrives in KSA
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 22 - 02 - 2015


Saeed Haider
Saudi Gazette
DAMMAM — Light! Sound! Camera! Action!
Filmmaking in Saudi Arabia has eventually arrived in a big way. This was evident Friday night at the second Saudi Film Festival that opened at Jawaher Al-Mashael Khair Complex in Dammam. The response to the festival was a clear indication that the people in the country were ready to welcome this medium which in the words of Ahmad Al-Mulla, festival director, could project Saudi Arabia in a better way.
The turnout was much beyond the expectations of the organizers as the 200-seat auditorium could not hold a crowd of over 500 people. There were no mega superstars and celebrities. Unlike Hollywood and Bollywood, the actors, directors, producers and the audience together made one big family of film lovers.
The only disappointment of the day was absence of Indian theater legend Ebrahim Alkazi who was to be honored for his contribution to the theater and for bridging the Gulf between the Middle East and Sub-Continent. The memento for Alkazi was received by his cousin, Sulaiman Al- Kadi, former director general of the then Saudi Consolidated Electric Company, now Saudi Electric Company.
Ahmad Al-Mulla paid a rich tribute to Alkazi for his contribution to the theater. Alkazi has his roots in Saudi Arabia. Earlier, after the opening ceremony Al-Mulla said that during the next five days the people will be treated with some of the finest and choicest work of young and budding film makers.
Nearly 66 films will be screened covering 34 different categories which will include feature films, documentaries and students films.
There will be three prize categories the first will be Golden Pam Tree Award followed by Silver Palm Tree and Bronze. The first prize also carries a cash award of SR180,000 which could be used in financing a new project. The festival was organized by Saudi Art and Culture Association and is being held under the auspices of the Ministry of Information and Culture.
Chairman of the Saudi Art and Cultural Association Sultan Al-Baz'ie said the cinema was a powerful medium to project any society. No doubt it is not only a major source of entertainment "but also a true reflection of our society." He paid rich tribute to some early film makers who struggled with very limited resources and developed film-making art in Saudi Arabia.
In a brief chat with Saudi Gazette, renowned Saudi Film director Abdullah Al-Eyaf, who is also chairman of the jury, said that cinema has eventually arrived in Saudi Arabia. " The path is thorny; the progress will be slow but eventually it will take a shape to become a full- fledge industry in our lifetime," he said. "Hollywood and other countries are narrating stories on our country, why can't we do it. Who will know better about our culture and society than ourselves."
Abdullah Aleyaf directed many award winning films. His first film was a 42-minute documentary Cinema 500 km which discusses the ban on cinemas in Saudi Arabia by following a young Saudi movie fan during his first trip outside the country just to experience his first ever film in a theater. Al-Eyaf's second project was a 19-minute short film called Etaar (A Frame). The third short film he made was the 23-minute drama Matar (Rain) which was shown in many international film festivals around the Most of the filmmakers being showcased in this festival are under the age of 25, said Al-Mulla, who sees his role as helping them to develop.
As well as screening films, the festival will include workshops on scriptwriting, music and directing, and talks by industry figures from around the region.
The festival received more than 120 film submissions, of which around 66 met the requirements to be shown, Al-Mulla said adding that the festival entries cover a wide range of subjects including crime, society and history. There is even an animated movie and a "very strong" film about human rights.


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