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Saudi Filmmaker becomes Kingdom's Cultural Ambassador
By Fouzia Khan
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 10 - 2009

The Saudi filmmaker, director and producer of Rawad media, Mamdouh Saleh, has recently been made Saudi Arabia's Cultural Ambassador by the British Council and the Ministry of Culture and Information. In this capacity he will represent Saudi Arabia and participate in the global “Culture Leadership International” (CLI) program for cultural management.
The program aims to strengthen international relations through the exchange of cultural knowledge and experience, as well as provide opportunities for dialog and establish a network of global relations based on mutual cultural appreciation.
“Mamdouh Saleh's nomination was based on his leadership abilities in the field of culture and arts,” remarked the director of creative projects at the British Council in Jeddah, Samer Sabil.
“This nomination was made after several stages of thought and observation by the Council and the Ministry of Culture and Information and with the aim of identifying a creative and active leadership in the field of cultural affairs.”
He added that the fact that Saudi Arabia has also chosen a Cultural Ambassador indicates the sheer scale of development in the Kingdom on the cultural front.
The Award for the best Cultural Leader - selected at CLI - will receive an award of 10,000 pounds to invest in a creative field. The nomination of ambassadors itself was based on the three criterions of achievement, skills and future plans, and Saleh passed all three with flying colors.
He came into the limelight in 2000 backed by 400 theatrical performances in 29 school plays credited to his name. In 2005, he became the leading member of a media organization - Rawad Media - which has become the leader in media production and distribution of audio/visual material.
Saleh has also participated in international festivals - representing Saudi Arabia with documentaries produced by the Ministry of Culture and Information - including in Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Senegal and the United Kingdom.
At these cultural forums, he was honored by a number of organizations, particularly the Kazan Film Studio in Russia during the Saudi Cultural Week there, for his film “Full Moon Night”, which is a documentary highlighting the Hijazi traditions of Ramadan and Eid in Saudi society.
“The Child Task” is another of his films, that has been greatly appreciated by audiences. Based on a true story, the film follows the life of a child who attempts to “save his nation” when his father leaves him and his mother to look for employment. “The passion, excitement and involvement of the child in the story was a very important theme in the film,” explained Saleh, speaking exclusively to Saudi Gazette.
CLI is the first event of its kind in the world, and Saleh has just returned from attending training workshops in London and Paris; In London, he attended a training course organized by the BBC, while he met with officials from the Arab World Institute in Paris and visited a number of specialized academies of arts while he was there.
The Arab World Institute is one of the most vital cultural centers in Europe, aiming to promote cultural exchange, communication and cooperation between France and the Arab world.
The Assistant Director-General of British Council projects, Amani Farekh, remarked that the program works to strengthen the leadership role of participants with the vision to expand perceptions of the cultural field and create long-term global activities for local communities. Another aim is to establish and support international organizations and institutions that provide services in the field of cultural management.
Saleh himself was very pleased with being awarded the title and remarked that he already had a number of cultural projects lined up. He also remarked that he did not think that it would be possible to have any film festivals in the Kingdom in the near future, but that the annual Asian film festival that is organized by the Asian Consulates, provides an outlet to showcase creativity.
“I plan to showcase local Saudi films, marketed by several European countries, in order to support the Saudi film industry and highlight Saudi culture via that,” he said. “Films can act as a mirror and provide a picture of reality about Saudi Arabia to the outside world.” He also claimed that there are plans in the pipeline to organize another film festival after the Jeddah Film Festival was canceled in July this year, but that “it will be outside Saudi Arabia.” The next big event will take place in Kuala Lumpur next year when Islamic documentaries will be showcased.
To support Saudi filmmakers, Saleh is planning to host competitions and training workshops, though he admitted that these would have take place outside of the Kingdom at this present time.


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