Pavilion makes Saudi film industry a star attraction at Cannes film market

The Saudi Arabia pavilion has been one of the most active international pavilions at Cannes, as the Saudi Film council announced big rebates for productions in the Kingdom.
Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, Film market, Saudi Arabia cinema, Saudi film council, General culture authority, Arabic films, Arab filmmakers, Saudi Arabia, Middle east film production

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At this year's Cannes film festival, Saudi Arabia's nascent film industry is making great strides to promote the country as a must-have partner at the industry's biggest event. The Saudi pavilion located in the film festival’s International Village, has been the star of the Marche Du Film film market since it's opening on Friday. Saudi Arabia has come to the world’s largest film market to declare its newly launched film industry “open for business”

The Kingdom is making its presence felt as the star attraction at the star-studded festival, with an eye catching pavilion and a host of announcements and deals. The two-story pavilion has been one of the most active international pavilions at the festival. Saudi Arabia is displaying nine short films and hosting industry panels ranging from theatrical distribution to digital content. Visitors can also experience a 360 degree VR display simulation for showcasing potential shooting locations around the Kingdom.

Organised by the Saudi General Culture Authority and newly established Saudi Film Council, some 46 delegates from the film and production industry are attending and will highlight the 13 Saudi provinces as international film locations. Nearly 1,300 islands in the Kingdom are being promoted to location scouts. Over 12000 slick booklets are being handed out to attendees that showcase the Kingdom’s wealth, growing population of consumers, and stunning filming locations.

Speaking to reporters, Ahmad Al-Mezyed, chief executive of the General Culture Authority, said it was “a call to come shoot in Saudi.”

On Friday, the country’s new national film organisation, the Saudi Film Council enticed international filmmakers to the nation, as they announced a 35-per cent rebate on films shot in Saudi Arabia and a 50-per cent rebate for studios using homegrown talent. The first production backed by the Saudi Film Council will be Haifa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate,” about a Saudi female doctor who runs for municipal council elections.

She is one of three women on the new 13-member board of the General Authority for Culture and the first Saudi female director, whose film “Wadja” was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.

Ever since the announcement that Saudi Arabia will reopen cinemas after a 35 year hiatus, it has attracted big cinema chains and distributors looking to enter the Kingdom's expected $1B a year cinema market. The opening of the Kingdom to the movies is seen as a potential goldmine for a Hollywood industry with very few large new markets such as Saudi Arabia.

A-list star John Travolta and his family visited the Saudi Film Council team at the Saudi pavilion during the Cannes Film Festival in support of their new movie, ‘Gotti.’

“This is a brave new world,” Fadi Ismail, director of group drama, production and distribution at MBC, told Arab News at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday. MBC's O3 Productions announced they will develop four Saudi films in partnership with leading Middle East production house, Image Nation.

Ismail was speaking on the sidelines of a panel to discuss the future of Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning film industry. The panel was moderated by Variety’s Nick Vivarelli, featuring Fadi Ismail joined by Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas, the operator of Vox Cinemas, and Pierre Rasamoela of Orange Studio, a French film production company.

The Saudi pavilion has organized panels and roundtables featuring both regional and international film figures that will continue until May 15, featuring such subjects as Saudi Arabia: The Next Frontier of Filming Locations; Saudi Arabia: A Historic Transformation Through Film; and Groundbreaking Women in Film in Saudi Arabia and the MENA Region.

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