A new year is always a chance for new beginnings and fresh starts, and 2018 promises to bring many of those things to Saudi Arabia this year.
Saudi Vision 2030 has provided enormous inspiration across vast sectors of the Kingdom, as the country begins to expand in new areas including announcements on women driving, the Red Sea Project to expand tourism and new opportunities in the entertainment sector.
It’s perhaps the entertainment sector that promises the most hope for 2018, due to the opening of movie theaters across the Kingdom in March for the first time in 35 years. When Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh Alawwad made the announcement about this bold new step he said, “Opening cinemas will act as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification; by developing the broader cultural sector we will create new employment and training opportunities, as well as enriching the Kingdom’s entertainment options.”
There will certainly be no shortage of content to fill the movie screens, as Saudi filmmakers have been showing their work internationally for years, at movie festivals from Hollywood to Berlin to Dubai. Now for the first time in decades, Saudi citizens can see the immense talents of its own filmmakers on the big screen.
One of those talented filmmakers is Danya Alhamrani who founded Eggdancer Productions in Jeddah over 10 years ago. Like many film and documentary makers in Saudi Arabia, they haven’t been able to show their work at home, but that’s about to change this year. Speaking to Arabia Now Danya said, “I have the working in this industry since 2003 and my partner and I established Eggdancer Productions in 2006 so we have been in this industry for quite a while it has been a struggle to not always find financing and support however with this new wind of change we are excited to see what comes.”
What’ s coming is the hope of over 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens by the year 2030. The film industry will be a huge market in Saudi Arabia, not just for those who want to create film content, but also as a way to spur economic growth, create jobs and expand the service industries like restaurants and coffee shops for movie goers to frequent.
But the real change will be the creation of a solid and powerful film making industry in Saudi Arabia, which will show the rest of the world the hidden talents that have existed in this sector of the Kingdom for a long time. During her interview with Arabia Now Danya said, “I have wanted to make films my whole life. I basically have been making films since I was a child. It was something I worked towards for a very long time. I originally thought that I wanted to get into fiction. But then when I started film school and worked on fiction films I realize that my passion was actually in documentary. I was always interested in seeing peoples real lives and exploring different stories that I wouldn’t have access to if I wasn’t a filmmaker.”
Up to this point Saudi filmmakers have screened their films across the world, with two Saudi made films making it to Oscar considerations. In 2013, Wadjda was nominated for best foreign film at the Oscars and in 2016 Barakah Meets Barakah was entered for consideration after rave reviews at the Berlin Film Festival.
Eggdancer Productions has being creating a vast array of content for both film and television. It’s a business, which requires lots of hard word and original ideas as it’s one of the most competitive fields in the world. During her interview with Arabia Now, Miss Alhamrani said talked about their latest project, which is a documentary film about Saudi women pioneers called “A Silent Revolution.” She said, “People are not surprised I am a film maker, but they are more fascinated because they think that the life of a filmmaker is glamorous. However documentary filmmakers are very different breed from fictional filmmakers in my opinion.”
With only three months to go before movies theaters begin to open up across Saudi Arabia, it won’t be long before those in the Kingdom can decide for themselves, and which types of film can create box office gold.