Saudi Film Festival celebrates country’s cinema culture

Fifty films competed for the Golden Palm award in three categories: the feature film competition, the documentary film competition and the student films competition.
Fifty films competed for the Golden Palm award in three categories: the feature film competition, the documentary film competition and the student films competition.

Tuesday 08/09/2020
Saudi poet Ahmed al-Mulla, the festival’s director and founder. (Saudi Film Festival website)
Saudi poet Ahmed al-Mulla, the festival’s director and founder. (Saudi Film Festival website)

DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia – An extraordinary sixth session of the Saudi Film Festival concluded last Saturday after six days of activities.

Organised by the Culture and Arts Society in Dammam in partnership with the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran, “Ithra,” and with the support of the culture ministry’s film authority, the Saudi Film Festival is a national initiative created to develop and enrich the Saudi film industry.

Hussam El-Sayed’s “When will I sleep” won the Golden Palm award in the feature film category for best first film. (twitter)
Hussam El-Sayed’s “When will I sleep” won the Golden Palm award in the feature film category for best first film. (twitter)

Since its first session, the Saudi Film Festival has succeeded in achieving an unprecedented impact in developing and empowering the kingdom’s contemporary film industry, providing opportunities for Saudi artists interested in the film industry and celebrating their best film projects.

Fifty films competed for the Golden Palm award in three categories: the feature film competition, in which 23 films participated, the documentary film competition, with 13 films, and the student films competition, which saw 17 submissions.

The unexecuted scenario competition received a mammoth 177 submissions.

Hussam El-Sayed’s “When do I sleep” won the Golden Palm award in the feature film category for best first film; The award for best second film went to Dhay Al-Rashed “Lumiege.” The festival’s organisers decided to withhold the audience award, a prize given by the audience not by a jury or festival committee, in this section of feature films.

In the documentary category, Mohamed Al Hammadi’s “The Village” won the Golden Palm award for best first film, while the award for best second film went to “Hawas” by director Khaled Zidan. The audience award was won by the film “Talal Fi Daker,” directed by Saad Taheeh. “Return” by Anas Al-Hamid won the Golden Palm award for best first film in the student film competition, while “Min Rajab” by Nora Al-Fraikh won the award for best second film. The audience award went to “The Red Circle.”

The festival’s committee awarded the “Golden Palm” award for best first long screenplay to writer Muhammad Al-Shaheen for his text “Screenwriter.” The award for the second best long screenplay went to writer Muhanna Al-Muhanna for the text “Children of a village” in the unexecuted scenario competition.

“Return” by Anas Al-Hamid won the Golden Palm award for best first film in the student film competition. (Saudi Film Festival website)
“Return” by Anas Al-Hamid won the Golden Palm award for best first film in the student film competition. (Saudi Film Festival website)

Writer Nayef Al-Osaimi won the Golden Palm award for best first short screenplay for his text “Screaming,” while Aqil Al-Khamis won the best second short screenplay for his text “Al-Qunbar.”

The festival’s organisers said they aim to support national talents, encourage Saudi filmmaking and promote cinematic culture in Saudi Arabia.

“This sixth session, even if it is described as exceptional, we are biased towards the positive in this description, with its varied program,” said Saudi poet Ahmed al-Mulla, the festival’s director and founder.

Hussein Hanabaza, director of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture “Ithra” said the festival since its launch in 2008 has sought to promote filmmaking and enhance cultural mobility in the kingdom, in addition to providing opportunities for young Saudi talents interested in filmmaking.

In his closing speech, Mulla congratulated “the Saudi filmmakers for their valuable participation,” wishing the end of “this transitory crisis, which brought us into a different adventure in the implementation of the festival, a rich adventure from which we will carry a lot to our next sessions.”

He concluded his speech by saying “our films are our dreams … We promise you a rich and close seventh session.”