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Lights, Camera, Action on Saudi Arabia's First Film Festival

Lights, Camera, Action on Saudi Arabia's First Film Festival

I can see the trailer now. . . "In a world ruled by a strict theocratic monarchy . . . where the freedoms we enjoy are a distant concept . . . where everything you know is not as it seems . . . one man stands alone. . . "

OK, it’s not that dramatic, but it is pretty exciting. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now holding its first ever film festival. The four-day affair is taking place in the eastern city of Damman — though roll up the racy red carpet — it will adhere to all Muslim rules: women and men will be separated during screenings, the festivities begin with a recitation of Quranic verse, and no alcohol will be served during the festival. Though the usual trademarks of a Sundance-y atmosphere are there — baseball caps and t-shirts with the festival’s logo were offered to everyone at the screenings. To see why this is such a huge leap,


The idea of a film festival in a wildly religiously devout nation was unheard of just a few years ago, but with more and more Saudis gaining access to satellite television and DVDs, interest in joining the global film making community has risen dramatically.

Of course it's not all huge tubs of popcorn — many object strongly to this festival. Conservatives have overwhelmed newspapers denouncing the national film industry for lewd activities like promoting alcohol consumption and showing scenes where men and women interact. Though the festival was approved by the Information Ministry, members from the Committee to Prevent Vice and Promote Virtue stopped by to catch a flick and make sure everything adhered to code.

The Information Minister, in his opening night speech invited all to what may be Saudi Arabia’s introduction into global film making: “There’s a debate over the issue of cinema and movies, and it’s a debate that should continue. Film is a means to communicate with the rest of humanity and what should be judged is the content and not the means.”

Is this a positive step for Saudi Arabia? Can expression in film be introduced and keep with their strict traditions?


stephley stephley 9 years
Do you really think that if you take away the option of racy topics that Saudi filmmakers won't have any stories to tell?
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I saw a few of their beheading snuff films on the internet a few years ago and just found them sort of devoid of any narrative intention.
melda melda 9 years
I don't know about Saudi Arabia, but I am a Sunni Muslim girl, and I have watched movies other than People praying! And yes they 'Chop Out' sex scenes in movies that they show in TV or movies, we can buy the complete DVDs from bazaar, but not every one in this world is intrested in seeing nude people! Also I have many french and english magazines, they are not censored, they are original I believe.
mymellowman mymellowman 9 years
Dave, I saw that one. Hot!
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
The racier moveis show women's bare ankles...
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
What would the movies even be about? People praying? It seems like that's all they would allow!
MartiniLush MartiniLush 9 years
I have a friend who lived there for a while for her job, and when she would get magazines in the mail (we friends would gather them up and ship them off to her, since she couldn't get them there), they would be "edited" by the censorship authorities when she got them! So what on earth will they do to movies? Chop out the offending parts?
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
good lord, what kind of films can they even show? it seems like it would just be blasphemy all around!
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