Interview: Saudi's presence at Cannes International Film Festival

Interview: Saudi's presence at Cannes International Film Festival

Saudi Arabia’s Film Commission opened the Saudi Pavilion wing at the 76th Cannes International Film Festival
31 May 23

With the recent and noticeable growth in the Saudi film industry, this move has only assured the world that the Kingdom’s film industry is beginning to truly thrive in its own right.

According to the CEO of Saudi Film Commission, Abdullah Al Eyaf, Saudi cinema revenues are the fastest growing in the Middle East.

The Saudi pavilion had the presence of several Saudi actors and filmmakers to shed light on talented filmmakers, further develop the local film industry, and to collaborate with international industry partners.

Film MOC: HRH Prince Bader bin Farhan at the Saudi Pavilion

Local actors and film industry professionals included Mohammed Al Turki, Fatima Albanawi, Mila Al Zahrani, and Ibraheem Alkhairallah.

Two panel discussion took place during the festival titled “Saudi Ecosystem” and “Filmed in Saudi”, highlighting the efforts of the Saudi filmmaking industry.

In Conversation with Director Maha Al Saati

We had the pleasure of interviewing filmmaker Maha Al-Saati, who directed VHS Tape Replaced alongside Motasem Nasser.

When speaking about her colleague Nasser, Al Saati says: “We have been friends for a while, and I’ve always enjoyed his sense of humour, so we said why not work together.”

Generation 2030: Maha Al-Saati

VHS Tape Replaced is a film that won the Best Short film Award at Aswan International Film Festival

The film takes place in 1987, starring Motasem Nasser and Sarah Taibah. The story revolves around a young black Saudi man who tries to win over the girl of his dreams by mimicking her favorite artist, Prince.

Maha wrote the abstract in one day, and Motassem did the screenwriting. The story itself was inspired by both parties. “We tried to make something that’s close to Napoleon Dynamite,” said Maha.

Firas Mishraa was also involved during the audition phase and directing male characters on set.

“Usually, stories that are about race are sad and serious, but we wanted to create something humorous.”

This is Maha’s second time at Cannes International Film Festival. “This time I had a film in the short film corner, which also had private screenings arranged by Generation 2030.

Generation 2030: Roundtable on the development of Saudi cinema

Last year, Maha’s film Hair: The Story of Grass, which was also a quirky comedy was privately screened during the festival.

“It's been great to network with people in the film industry, and to view private screenings. I hope this helps introduce Saudi cinema to the outside world.”

On recent developments, Maha Shared: “I believe the Saudi film industry has become more professional. We have more funding programs offered by several entities including the Red Sea Festival Film Funds, the Film Commission with Dhaw initiative, and Film AlUla to name a few,” all of which are encouraging filmmaking and producing professional filmmaking.

"Nowadays, Saudi cinema is leaning towards more professionality including having productions on Netflix or reaching box office hits. There’s more mindfulness towards international co-productions."

Maha hopes for Saudi cinema to have more diversity when it comes to storytelling and the diversity of genres.