The annual Saudi Film Festival was established and organized in 2008 by the Culture and Arts Association in Dammam, in partnership with the Literary Club in Dammam under the name of the Saudi Film Competition. To find out more about this groundbreaking, pioneering event which led the way for so many other festivals and opened the doors to cinema in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, read up my interview with SFF founder Ahmed AlMulla, on Screen International.
This year will see the 9th edition of the festival take place, once again inside the wondrous Ithra building. Starting last year, the eighth session was the first organized by the Cinema Society after obtaining all the rights, mechanisms and obligations of organizing the festival from the Culture and Arts Association in Dammam.
Recently, the festival announced its line up of documentaries in Competition, which is where the DNA of the festival lies, as non-fiction was what Al Mulla screened first for his early audiences. You can find all the titles in the tweet above.
They also announced their narrative and shorts Competition sections, with familiar names sitting alongside filmmakers we are eager to discover in Dammam. Among MIME favorites are Raven Song, reviewed here by Jay Weissberg and this year's Saudi entry to the Oscar race, and Within Sand by Mohammed Alatawi, interviewed here in Screen. But also a short Somewhere in Time by pioneering Egyptian-Emirati filmmaker Nawaf Al Janahi.
Along with the films announced, the festival also disclosed their juries for this year, starting with Feature Film Jury, headed by maverick producer Daniel Ziskind, and featuring Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha, and Saudi filmmaker and comedian Hisham Fageeh. Ziskind is a famed producer based in Paris whose credits include the 2018 Cannes Competition title Yomeddine, Mohamed Diab's Amira as well as Clash and Fatima AlBanawi's upcoming feature Basma. Bouchoucha's frequent collaboration with Mohamed Ben Attia has seen her produce his upcoming Les Ordinaires, as well as Berlinale title Hedi, and also the 2018 Dear Son (Weldi). Fageeh starred in the 2016 film Barakah Meets Barakah, after gaining pop culture status online, as a comedian and participant in the 2014 Alaa Wardi video 'No Woman, No Drive' -- to the sound of Bob Marley's reggae anthem No Woman No Cry -- a commentary on laws in Saudi Arabia restricting women's rights to drive. The video has received 17 million views to date on YouTube.
Stay tuned in the next days for more info and updates about the festival, and check out their website here.