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Film festivals now part of Jeddah
By Abdullah Al-Bargi
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 09 - 04 - 2009

While movie theaters are still banned in the Kingdom, the whole world is holding cinema festivals in Jeddah. After the Asians, now come the Europeans with the European Film Festival for the third year in a row. The festival kicked off Wednesday night with the screening of the German comedy Keinohrhasen at the residence of the German Consul General.
These are exciting times for the movie industry in the Kingdom as people are talking about bringing back movies to the Saudi scene, Dr. Michael Zickerick, German Consul General, told the Saudi Gazette. “We see ourselves as part of the process,” he said.
Germany, like other countries with a long history of film, is helping to develop the industry in the Kingdom, especially with the annual Jeddah Film Festival later this year, Dr. Zickerick said. The director of the German Cultural Institute will be arriving in the Kingdom soon and he will be put in touch with Saudi filmmakers to discuss the industry and to inspire each other for success, the Consul General said.
Films had not been viewed publicly for decades before the arrival of the Saudi movie Menahi in 2008. Moviegoers howled, clapped, and munched popcorn while watching the movie in a theater in Jeddah and one in Taif.
Running through the end of April, the 3rd European Festival has been organized by the consulates general of Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and Greece with the support of the European delegation in Saudi Arabia. With a select audience, the festival will feature different genres of movies including, comedy, documentary, and drama in the premises of the consulates of Germany, France, Italy, Russia, and Switzerland.
The organizers of the festival have informed the government which replied with “No objection,” Dr. Zickerick said.
The Asian Consuls General Club (ACGC) successfully organized the 2nd Asian Film Festival in Jeddah from 7-19 March 2009. Fourteen Asian countries, including host country Saudi Arabia, presented their documentaries and feature films.
The films in the European Film Festival are screened in the original language with English subtitles.
The 2007 movie Keinohrhasen, or Rabbit without Ears, was screened at the residence of the German Consul General. The story of the film revolves around a yellow press reporter Ludo and his ex-classmate Anna, who reconvene after years when he is sentenced to 300 hours of community service at her day-care facility after falling into the wedding cake at the party for a celebrity couple while trying to report the story.
On April 14, the festival will feature the 2002 French documentary movie Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have) at the residence of the French Consul General. Director Nicolas Philibert intimately portrays the everyday life of 13 pupils in a one-class primary school in rural France showing the heart of a community and its truly inspiring teacher. The hit movie bagged many awards including Best Documentary Award at the 2002 European Film Festival and Best Editing Award at 2002 Cesar.
The Italian Club will feature the 1991 drama movie Mediterraneo April 23. The film is set during World War II and regards a group of Italian soldiers who become stranded on a Mediterranean island and are left behind by the war. As their thoughts of war wane, they begin to explore the meaning of life. This bitter-sweet comedy was awarded Best Foreign Film Award, Oscar, in 1992. It also bagged Best Picture, Best Editing, Best Sound of David di Donatello Awards in 1991.
Untainted by Hollywood, the festival will feature the 2008 Russian film Admiral which will be screened at the residence of the Russian Consul General on April 26. With many awards, the movie tells the story of a great love facing the greatest drama in the history of Russia.
The Swiss film Azzurro will be shown at the residence of the Swiss Consul General on April 29. This joint 2000 Franco-Italian-Swiss production shot principally in the Geneva and Valais region of Switzerland features the sometimes tense relationships maintained by Swiss employers following the first wave of migrant workers, in this instance from the Italian peninsula, during the 1960s. The movie bagged Best Film Award, Swiss Film Prize in 2001.

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