Two directors and Saudi film critic engage with Russian audience following screening
RIYADH, October 8, 2017 – Russian film lovers flocked to the final night of Saudi Cultural Week in Moscow, braving a chilling rain to take advantage of a rare opportunity to watch three films produced by Saudi Arabia’s nascent film industry. Saudi Cultural Week took place on the sidelines of King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s historic state visit to Russia, the first ever by a Saudi king.
Although the three films screened were works of fiction, they were chosen for their authentic representation of life in Saudi Arabia. Following the screenings, Saudi film critic Dr. Fahad Al Yahya led a lively discussion during which audience members interacted with two visiting directors — Abdulaziz Al-Shallahi and Hana Al-Omair — addressing them with questions and giving their own take on the films they had just seen.
Al-Shallahi’s film, “Departure”, is an award-winning short film that focuses on combatting extremism among young people. “Complaint”, directed by Al-Omair, follows a healthcare worker from a broken family as she navigates life with much difficulty. Finally, Badr Al-Hamoud’s “The Bliss of Being No One,” which won the Best Film Award at the Dubai International Film Festival, follows a young man grieving his lost family when he encounters a one-eyed older man who helps him gain perspective on his losses. Al-Hamoud was unable to accompany his fellow directors on the trip to Moscow.
The films presented a Saudi Arabia of compassion and tolerance and represent a means of countering the often harsh treatment afforded the Kingdom in the international press. The Kingdom’s film industry is still in its infancy, but Saudi filmmakers are attracting attention on the international film scene. In 2012, “Wadjda”, a film by Haifa Al-Mansour, was the first Saudi film submitted for consideration as the Best Foreign Language Academy Award, and the director’s next film, a biopic of Mary Shelly, recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Currently, “Barakh Meets Barakh, directed by Mahmoud Sabbagh, has been receiving kudos on the international film festival circuit and will be screened commercially, as was “Wadjda”, in a number of countries.
The night of Saudi films was part of a comprehensive cultural program organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information at the New Menage Exhibition Center in central Moscow. It included an exhibition of modern Saudi art, an intellectual symposium, popular folklore shows and folkloric musical performances.