Saudi rolls out red carpet for first major film festival
Published: Dec 06, 2021 06:28 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

 Less than four years after lifting a ban on cinemas, Saudi Arabia is to host its first major film festival from Monday as it eyes a lucrative new industry.

Movie houses were barred for decades until April 2018, but over the next 10 days, actors and directors will tread the red carpet at Jeddah's Red Sea International Film Festival.

The festival starts a day after Jeddah hosted its first Formula One Grand Prix, also an attempt to portray Saudi Arabia in a different light.

It will showcase 138 long and short films from 67 countries in more than 30 languages.

Among them are Jordan's critically acclaimed The Alleys, directed by Bassel Ghandour, and non-Arabic films including Joe Wright's Cyrano and '83, the story of India's 1983 cricket World Cup victory.

The festival is also expected to honor Haifaa al-Mansour, the first female Saudi director, who shot Wadjda in 2012, the winner of a number of international awards.

The rise of Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in 2017 has ushered in a number of reforms.

"The thought of organizing a film festival in Saudi Arabia was unimaginable just five years ago," said Egyptian art critic Mohamed Abdel Rahman. 

The festival also has an eye on a burgeoning market for shooting and consuming films in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's annual box office could reach $950 million by 2030, according to a report by multinational accountancy firm PwC.

It estimates the kingdom's forecast population of nearly 40 million could absorb up to 2,600 cinema screens.