Safouh Naamani’s restored masterpiece 'Pilgrimage to Mecca' to screen at Islamic Arts Biennale

The film is one of two rare works by the esteemed Saudi photographer which were restored by the Red Sea International Film Festival, and were slated to premiere at the inaugural edition, postponed due to the pandemic.
Safouh Naamani’s restored masterpiece 'Pilgrimage to Mecca' to screen at Islamic Arts Biennale

The Red Sea International Film Festival is participating in the Islamic Arts Biennale with the screening of Safouh Naamani’s masterpiece documentary Pilgrimage to Mecca. The film will be screened twice, on Friday, March 31 at 10:00 PM and again on Friday, April 7 at 10:00 PM, at The Western Pilgrims Hall, King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, KSA.

In its inaugural edition, the Islamic Arts Biennale is bringing together centuries of faith and artistic expression. Taking centre stage at the iconic Hajj Terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the Biennale celebrates cultural, intellectual, and artistic achievements that trace their origins to the House of Allah, Awwal Bait (“First House”). Currently ongoing, the Biennale kicked off on January 23rd of this year, and will run through April 23rd.

Saudi photographer and cinematographer Safouh Naamani (1926-2016), is one of the pioneers of color photography in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Pilgrimage to Mecca is a rare documentary made by Naamani in 1963 on the journey to Hajj, in addition to a movie compiling never before seen film footage of the city of Jeddah, taken with Naamani’s personal camera between 1954 and 1968.

Pilgrimage to Mecca is a 35-minute color documentary film, developed at the William Palmer laboratory in San Francisco, about the pilgrimage to Mecca, filmed during the 1963 Hajj season.

Naamani used his extensive knowledge of the holy city of Mecca to deliver an authentic perspective. The documentary captures Mecca’s inspiring landscapes and religious rituals while presenting the journey of pilgrims to Mecca. Previously, the film has screened in private or limited shows, and so will now be presented publicly for the first time.

Probably more important today than when it was first made, the film presents a unique insight into the Holy City of Mecca. These days, as mobile phones are allowed inside the Holy City and Muslim influencers walk side by side with old fashioned religious pilgrims, Naamani's viewpoint is bound to present a different approach. A return to the sanctity of crucial beliefs. The Red Sea International Film Foundation was able to develop and restore five reels of raw film belonging to Naamani at a film restoration lab in Munich, Germany.

Naamani is one of the pioneers of photography and filmmaking in Jeddah, KSA. He started selling cameras and photography equipment in 1952 at his family-run “Al Naamani Stores” on King Abdulaziz road, before establishing “Studio Safouh” located in Abdullah Alfaisal building for portrait photography and photographic film development.

Restoring the work of Safouh Naamani and presenting it to a Saudi audience is a key component of the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation, which is tasked with reviving, preserving and highlighting the heritage of Saudi cinema for modern audiences.

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