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Saudi Arabian Film Festival Starts

flag.JPGIn a country where young, unrelated men and women mingling in a dark room together is considered a sin, a pastime like going to the movies is out of the question. Such is the case in Saudi Arabia, a region known as the birthplace of Islam.

But forward-thinkers in that country are taking small steps towards changing that hard-line mindset. This week marks the start of "The Jeddah Visual Show Festival," a month-long event showcasing short films from around the region. Recognizing the stigma associated with "film" and "cinema," the fest's craetors chose a less challenging name for their screenings.

That doesn't mean the films aren't taking bold steps, however. Subject matters in the shorts range from religious extremism and terrorism to domestic violence. Each film will be shown three times a week over the next month.

Reuters offers some background where the history of film in Saudi Arabia is concerned. What I find most interesting are the last couple of paragraphs:

Saudi film critics in the audience welcomed the festival but were harsh about the offerings, saying they were amateurish.

"So there were mistakes, but if we are going to criticize then let's do the same for Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese or American films too," organiser Mohammad Sallam said in defense. "Saudis are going to show they can make good films too."

A country with no film industry to speak of not only has critics, but ones who know their stuff and aren't impressed by "ameteurish" films? It takes more than money to make a film--it takes an audience. The Jeddah Visual Show Festival might be a small step towards bringing film to Saudi Arabia, but it's a step in the right direction. Audiences, at least, are ready and waiting.

Posted by Lisa on July 13, 2006 05:41 PM
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