Filmmakers in Saudi Arabia have slammed the cancellation of the fourth edition of the Jeddah Film Festival as a “disgrace” and a “disappointment”.
However, they have unanimously pledged that such moves shall not stop them from forging ahead with making new films.
“It’s still vague and unclear why it was cancelled but it’s usually the case when something like this happens,” commented Noor Aldabbagh, an up and coming filmmaker in Saudi Arabia.
“It was hugely disappointing for a growing new generation of filmmakers who have put in a lot of time and effort into trying to make their voices heard here. Such acts kill ambition and talent. It is bad enough that filmmakers have to struggle so much to make a name for themselves given the technical and financial challenges they have to face. But we are not going to keep quiet. I am doing a private screening of my work in Riyadh and a lot of us young filmmakers do this. We have a growing community that meets regularly to show our works to each other,” Aldabbagh added.
Mohammed Khulaif, a writer for a Saudi newspaper says the festival was quite harmless in the first place.
Khulaif’s first film did not make it past the censors for the festival as it touches upon a mildly controversial topic – that of closing shops five times a day in Saudi Arabia -- to correspond with prayer times.
He condemned the cancellation saying “we took five steps forward and have now taken ten steps backwards”.
He lauded the efforts made by the authorities when they permitted the screening of Menahi, the first film to be screened publicly in Saudi Arabia after several years.
However, he says the cancellation "brought us ten steps back from where we had begun".
Another writer and amateur filmmaker, Abdulmuhsin Almutairi, who is part of a film community called Talashi in the Kingdom stated that “cinema is the medium through which your present your society to outsiders”.
“We hope the authorities will change their outlook towards filmmakers in the future. We firmly believe that although we struggle today, one day, the victory will be ours," he added.