Modern Saudi film is evolving rapidly to include diverse, innovative and uniquely Saudi visual narratives, drawing on its deep historical cultures as well as contemporary life, and creating a new generation of young filmmakers passionate about sharing their stories. “We have a new generation of Saudi tastemakers and influencers, devoted to capturing the magic and spirit of our country through film and photography,” says Ali Al Mutairi, the director at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) which hosted the event.
“Saudi Art Days” featuring 13 Saudi films from this new generation, opened with “Bilal: A New Breed of Hero” by director and producer, Ayman Jamal. The first night also included a discussion with two other Saudi directors, Mohamed Al Salman and Shahad Ameen. Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent, who moderated the discussion, spoke about his recent trip to Saudi Arabia: “It was our first trip over there and it was really remarkable. It feels like there are significant changes over there coming to the film and TV and cultural landscape.” Film Independent has added Saudi Arabia to the list of eligible countries allowed to participate in the nonprofit’s Global Media Makers program, which connects amateur filmmakers with mentors in the U.S. entertainment industry. Other countries involved in the program include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Welsh asked the young directors their thoughts on the country’s end to the 35-year ban on cinemas, and the possibility of a Saudi film industry. Since film went to digital, Saudi filmmakers didn’t wait for the market to open,” responded Mohamed Al Salman. “Now, we are even more ready. When the market opens, it will be a drive for us to produce our film with budgets” “ Shahad Ameen noted that for the past ten years,Saudi films had been made and screened at international festivals “It is a great feeling showing your film in your county, the audience response different than any other place.” he said.
Alongside “Saudi Art Days” the “Kingdom of Colours” showcased the work of contemporary Saudi artists. The gallery included traditional photography and immersive video art where guests put on headphones to hear the corresponding audio. From landscapes to architecture, people to animals, religion to culture, history to future, the gallery offered visitors experience the kingdom in new ways.
Outside the theatre, a reception welcomed attendees with traditional Saudi Arabian appetizers and juices made from ingredients like chia seeds, maple syrup and strawberries. The drinks, which were garnished with edible flowers, were named after iconic films like“Casablanca” and “Singing in the Rain”.