Ithra announces 3 Saudi films, training programs to elevate local talent

‘Sea of Sands’ and ‘Valley Road’ to release in 2023; ‘Anti-Cinema’ in post production and expected to hit international film fests soon

Clapperboard, film and two floodlights. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Clapperboard, film and two floodlights. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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JEDDAH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) discussed its three new films at a press conference at the inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival on Wednesday.

The conference was attended by local and international press. The center was represented by Tariq Khawaji, Ithra’s chief librarian and the program’s cultural consultant and supervisor of the reading program, and Majed Samman, Ithra’s head of performing arts and cinema, who is also a Saudi filmmaker, producer, actor and editor.

The three movies under the Ithra production banner include a feature film, “Sea of Sands,” by celebrated Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy, a leading figure in the industry in the Middle East and Africa who has written, produced and co-produced nearly 40 feature films in Egypt, the US, the UK and the Arab world.

The second film is “Valley Road,” a Saudi film, including its cast, crew, and location. It will be filmed in Faifa and Soudah in the southern region of the Kingdom by the award-winning Saudi independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad.

The third is a feature documentary called “Anti-Cinema,” about the Kingdom’s cinematic heritage, directed by Ali Saeed and Hassan Saeed. “Sea of Sands” and “Valley Road” are both scheduled for release in 2023.

Samman, who is the producer of “Sea of Sands” and “Valley Road,” told Arab News about “Anti-Cinema,” a documentary that brings Saudi Arabia’s film history to the big screen and is a winner of the Ithra Content Commission Initiative, currently in post-production and expected to hit the international film festival circuit soon.

“Anti-Cinema will be the most controversial piece non-Saudi viewers will ever watch. It tells the history of cinema from the 1940s and 1950s all the way until the Red Sea Film Festival today. So, for us, and especially for our era, people will say, oh my god, I remember this, I remember that, it’s very nostalgic.”

He added: “But for the outside world, they would say that they had no idea they have cinemas in Saudi and I had no idea that they were making movies. It’s going to be an eye-opener for a lot of people. So it’s going to be very controversial.”

“The two films that we’re going to premiere in 2023 are the first of many films, and they’re going to be showing the world and Saudi Arabia how quality films are made. And I can’t wait for people to see it.”

During the conference, Ithra announced the opening of registration for a training program designed to take Saudi’s film industry to the next level.

The program aims to elevate local talent to a higher standard with international appeal. Samman told Arab News: “The program targets Saudi national talents aged 18-year-old and above. We put down eight different categories for them to join us. Participants need to submit their CV; they have to submit their previous work, their portfolio, and then we’re going to have to decide with judges.”

Samman added: “We really want to give as much as possible the opportunity for these Saudi filmmakers to join an international film and expose them to the filmmaking process, and that would give them a push so they can decide if they want to be filmmakers or not.”

The center has also opened registration for “Sea of Sands”’ shadowing program, linked to its strategic commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries.

Ithra Film Productions has helped dozens of filmmakers bring their dreams to life. One of the largest movie producers in the Kingdom, it has produced 20 films, 15 of which have received local, regional and international awards.

“We have produced more films in Saudi Arabia than any other entity, including 20 films to date for the past three years now, two feature films, and 18 short films. Most of these films are now on Netflix, Shahad and Saudi airlines. We want to continue making films, and mostly independent films, because like I said, we want to do the best-quality films that would cost a very good amount of money.”

Ithra is the Kingdom’s premier cultural and creative destination for talent development and cross-cultural experiences. It is an innovative and interactive public space for workshops, performances, events, exhibitions and experiences.

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