State funding is key, says Saudi Film Fest head

Ahmed AlMulla, Saudi Film Festival director, urges gov't to invest in cinemas
Ahmed AlMulla (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Ahmed AlMulla (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

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The head of the main film festival in Saudi Arabia, where cinemas are banned, wants the government to invest in the sector as part of its campaign to encourage entertainment, according to an interview with AFP.

Ahmed AlMulla made the comments to AFP ahead of the fourth Saudi Film Festival, which runs from March 23-28 in the Gulf coastal city of Dhahran.

This year's festival is the first since the kingdom in late last year began a cautious push to introduce entertainment, despite opposition from Muslim hardliners. Among the events on offer for Saudi spectators have been the New York theatrical group iLuminate, the Comic-Con pop culture festival, and WWE wrestling.

"It's nice to see all kinds of events here and people coming from outside but local talent needs to be trained, with support from the government. I think they must fund it because this is investment, the real investment," AlMulla told AFP.

AlMullah said that some of the directors of the 59 Saudi films to be screened at this year's festival were trained from overseas.

Saudi Arabia has created a government agency to support private firms organising entertainment events, under a wideranging "Vision 2030" plan for economic and social reform. The plan also calls for development of an arts and media industry, but with public theatres and cinemas banned, the sector is starting from a low base, the report added.

"We are waiting for the change, really. We want to create it from inside, not hosting events only. We have lots of talent working underground and nobody knows about them.

"Despite the annual film festival, Saudi Arabia lacks a film industry although female students can study filmmaking at a women's university in Jeddah,” AlMulla was quoted as saying.


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