DHAHRAN (Rahnuma) : The fifth Saudi Film Festival opened at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran on Thursday evening, bringing with it a “who’s who” of Gulf cinema.
Organized by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, the six-day festival aims to discover and nurture talented filmmakers from across the region, helping them build connections within the industry.
Among the movies tipped for success — having already picked up gongs at the Los Angeles Film Awards and the Indie Gathering International Film Festival — is Saudi entry “The Investor,” written and directed by Khalid Fahad and starring Aziz Gharbawi and Maan Mansour.
Mansour said: “This is the fourth film I have acted in, but the most important so far, as it has been nominated at the London Film Festival, and won awards at the Hollywood Short Film Festival and the Ohio Film Festival.
“Any Saudi film recognized at a festival is a success for the country. Anyone who has talent should pursue it and work at it and, InshaAllah, will succeed.”
Also in attendance was the filmmaker Mohammed Sindi, who told Arab News: “It is really good to be here. This is maybe the Kingdom’s only film festival, and generally these festivals are like golf courses for filmmakers. All the deals that happen, the connections and the networking happens here, so it is very important to have a platform like this where filmmakers can get to know each other.
“Most importantly, it is inspiring to see other people’s work, and it motivates you to keep working harder. It is great, we could not ask for more.”
Saudi actress Mariam Al-Ghamdi, famed for her appearances on shows such as “Selfie,” was also on the red carpet.
She praised Ithra for organizing the festival and for supporting young filmmakers in Saudi Arabia, saying: “In the past Saudi filmmakers were on their own, but thanks to Ithra, young filmmakers now have the support they need. Back then, there were few Saudi entries, but they still won.”
She was particularly excited at the progress of women in Saudi cinema: “I am so proud to see so many participating. There were very few women in the industry when I started. I am truly proud of what they have achieved, and I hope to have played a part in bringing it about.”
The festival continues until March 25, with appearances scheduled for Cuba Gooding Jr. and Salman Khan, both of whom will speak about the challenges and successes of their careers, and what they endured to reach the top. Tickets are available from the Ithra website.