The Future of Saudi Arabia’s Film Industry

A packed crowd in Riyadh listening to discussions on the emerging film industry in Saudi Arabia.

Vision 2030’s key pillars are steadily taking effect across the Kingdom. Amidst this backdrop, Saudi Arabia’s film industry has garnered notable attention. In light of the sector’s new changes, Alf Hewar, a non profit organization which is part of the “Alf Khair” social enterprise, held a conference in Riyadh called “Film and Production: From Viewer to Film-maker.”

The forum revolved around the future of the film and cinema industry in Saudi Arabia, especially with the upcoming entry of cinemas as an essential part of entertainment. The aim was to encourage dialogue around this budding industry and discuss the methods to enhance national film production to place Saudi Arabia on the international scene.

In an interview with Arabia Now, Mrs. Abeer Al-Fouti, Chief Operating Officer at Alf Khair, told Arabia Now, “Cinema is one of the youngest industries in the Kingdom; many film makers have achieved significant successes over the past years despite the absence of the cinema’s genuine role in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The imminent boom of the film industry will directly contribute to the creation of jobs, attract foreign investment, and help familiarize the world with the features and rich culture this country offers.”

With nearly 300 people attending the event, those who came included distinguished producers, directors, experts and stakeholders in the film industry from Saudi Arabia and abroad. Not surprisingly the conference attracted some excellent speakers including, Colin Vaines, a British film producer and Emmy Award winner who’s films include Gangs of New York, The Rum Diary, and the Young Victoria. Two rising stars of the Saudi film scene also spoke including Ali Al-Kalthami, a Saudi director, producer, writer and founding partner of Telfaz 11 and C3 films; and Ahd Kamel, Saudi actress, director and author, who co-starred in the movie “Wadjda” and received the first Gold Award in Beirut International Festival 2012 for her movie “AlGondorji,” a film which she also wrote and directed.

In discussing the rapidly changing film industry in Saudi Arabia, Al Fouti said, “We have witnessed a new birth for the Saudi cinema through movies that were featured in local and international film festivals, some of which have won valuable prizes. Furthermore, the youth of the nation have taken to YouTube to showcase their productions and were met with tremendous success; some of their projects have attained millions of views and massive followings.”

With Saudi Arabia standing as the world’s leader in social media usage, and the ongoing development of entertainment opportunities across the Kingdom, the potential to nurture home grown talent for the movie industry is tremendous. This conference on the film industry fit perfectly in the framework of Alf Khair’s mission to provide access to opportunity by providing a platform that supports and facilitates the work of young Saudi entrepreneurs in various fields, by providing support and resources to promote their excellence in the field.

“In addition to filmmakers and specialists from the Kingdom and abroad, we were keen on inviting a select group of those interested in the film industry to attend the forum in order to facilitate dialogue and enrich the debate,” Al Fouti said. “We want the meeting to highlight the best methods for developing this new industry in the Kingdom and help guide it to the right track. We also hope the forum shed light on the industry’s role in disseminating knowledge and raising the cultural level of the recipients as an essential means of entertainment.”

It would seem the stakeholders who attended certainly provided inspiration and collaboration to develop this budding new film industry and entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia.