Inside the 9th Edition of the Saudi Film Festival

Inside the 9th Edition of the Saudi Film Festival

Join us for a behind the scenes look at this year’s Saudi Film Festival
09 May 23
Ithra Saudi Film Festival Image source: Shutterstock Hyserb

Last week, May 4 saw the opening night of the ninth edition of the Saudi Film Festival. Hosted by gifted Saudi actor Fay Faroud alongside her fellow actor, producer and screen-writer, Baraa Alem, the week-long film festival launched at the iconic, and impressive Ithra Centre in Dammam.

Running through until May 11, this year’s film festival will see a significant number of attendees including critically acclaimed actors, directors, producers, screen-writers, and an array of filmmaking professionals — all gathered together to celebrate the film community’s latest projects.

The star-studded launch night began with attendees arriving on the red carpet, and we had the opportunity to interview Saudi actor Saad Abdulaziz from the show ‘Sikkat Safar’.

“I’ve attended the seventh edition of the (Saudi Film) Festival, as well as the fourth or fifth. What is beautiful about it is that every edition is different from the other.”

“I would like to thank the Saudi Film Festival and Ithraa for the invitation, and I’m excited to see the film screenings. I usually attend as a guest, and I hope to be a participant next year,” he said. This leads us to believe that some exciting projects are in the pipeline for Abdulaziz.

Stand-up comedian, actor, and screenwriter Fahad Al-Butairi said: “There has been a lot of improvement and maturing when it comes to films, and the way they've been developed. Saudi cinema is reaching a point where it competes worldwide as well.” And, we couldn’t agree more.

Al-Butairi’s latest project, the Saudi version of The Office, was challenging to him. “It’s something that's been so revered by millions of people worldwide that you have to do it justice, (and) I think we did a pretty good job.”

Image via Instagram Saudi Film Festival

Ahead of the launch, the series was critiqued by the international cult of Office fans but Al-Butairi mentions this criticism came to a halt when the episodes were released: “We've had a lot of very positive feedback (on the series), surprisingly from people who have never watched the original work.” In typical creative fashion, Al-Butairi is currently working on some exciting projects that will be announced soon.

A panel discussion was also held during the Saudi Film Festival with The Saudi Film Commission in partnership with Sollywood, an online film platform. The Commission expressed its goal to increase the number of cinema screens in the region — which, today stands at 583 screens — to 2600 screens, aligning with Saudi’s Vision 2030.

Image via Instagram Fahad Al-Butairi

Filmmaking is an exciting and ever-changing industry, and The Saudi Film Commission, together with other boards and committees, will work to raise awareness and share information through various ministries including the Ministry of Education, such as including making specific educational courses in filmmaking available to students and those interested in the sector.

Thamer Al-Saikhan, Director of Incentives and Film Promotion, shared the efforts of “Dhaw Program” which is a scholarship program that has supported filmmakers through grants and allowances of almost 40 million Saudi Riyals.

Abduljalil Al-Nasser, Director General of Sector Development and Investment Attraction said the Commission’s goal is to focus on talent development in different areas of filmmaking, aiming to produce local content for international audiences.

Image via Instagram Saudi Film Festival

Since 2021, the Commission’s strategies have included areas such as talent development, improvements in infrastructure, alongside supporting local and international productions in the Kingdom, implementing regulatory framework, and ensuring quality distribution and supply using an integrated operating model, shared Mishary Al-Khayat, Director General of Strategy, Policies and Regulations.

Abdullah Al Abdullah, Director General of the National Film Archive at the Commission, emphasized the importance of preserving cinematic archives to document the culture and heritage of the region. 90% of participants in the Saudi Film Festival have agreed to have their works preserved at the National Film Archive.

The Saudi Film Festival is continuing with various activities including screenings of nominated films at both Ithra Theatre and Cinema Ithra, in addition to panel discussions, master classes, seminars, and networking opportunities.

For more information visit Saudi Film Festival or Instagram Saudi Film Festival
Thursday May 4 to Thursday May 11. Ithra Centre, Dammam