During an Ithra-hosted discussion panel on Monday, titled 'Saudi Arabia: A film destination opportunity' at the Saudi Pavilion in Cannes, the Head of Performing Arts & Cinema Majed Z. Samman for the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) announced the cultural organization's first open call for film proposals.
“Ithra Film Production supports Saudi Arabia’s growing film industry by nurturing home-grown talent and fostering cinematic content creation,” said Samman, during the panel, and continued “we invite international filmmakers to collaborate with filmmakers in the Kingdom and join us on our journey to accelerate talent and sector development in Saudi.”
Under the initiative, Ithra Film Productions aims to commission and fund up to five films annually, inviting international filmmakers to collaborate with their Saudi counterparts under a new open call supported by a funding initiative.
The panel highlighted Saudi opportunities and collaborations within the film industry ecosystem. Samman was joined by Charlene Deleon-Jones, Film AlUla Executive Director, Fatima AlBabtain, Film Financing Manager at Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Development Fund, and Zeinab Abu Alsamh, General Manager of MBC Studios and CEO of MBC Academy.
Samman also said that the fund offers filmmakers from around the world the opportunity to film against backdrop of the Kingdom’s unspoiled landscapes. “By working with local crews, we hope to facilitate an organic process of knowledge transfer and cross-cultural exchange that would elevate the local industry and enrich the global cinematic landscape.”
The open call closes on August 4, 2023 and a panel of distinguished Arab filmmakers will select the final projects to receive funding.
Ithra Film Productions is aligned with the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 plans to diversify its economy. The initiative has produced more than 23 films, of which 15 have received local, regional and international awards. Ithra productions have been screened at 17 festivals around the world, while five have streamed on Netflix.
Most recently, Valley Road, by award-winning independent director Khalid Fahad, had its worldwide premiere as the closing film at the Red Sea International Film Festival. Valley Road is Fahad’s debut feature film and is slated for a wide release later this summer.
Filming also recently wrapped on another Ithra-commissioned project, Hajjan (pictured in the header above) a feature film which reunites celebrated Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy and director by Abu Bakr Shawky -- after the success in Cannes of Shawky's Yomeddine in 2018. Featuring emerging Saudi talent embedded in an international crew, the film is expected to join the festival circuit this fall.
Ithra, immediately recognizable as a stunning building structure in Saudi's Eastern Province, is also a beacon of change in Saudi Arabia, and symbolic of Kingdom's shift towards human energy based in culture, creativity and innovation. Saudi at heart and multicultural by nature, Ithra is a gateway to the Kingdom and a connection to the world. The Center creates new opportunities while preparing the next generation of original thinkers to lead in the creative and cultural industries. Ithra enriches lives and unlocks talent through a focus on cross-cultural experiences while encouraging the development of original content. The heart of the creative economy, Ithra offers purpose-driven programs and initiatives that support the Kingdom’s ongoing cultural transformation across the arts, sciences, culture and innovation.
Through the Ithra Film Production initiative, the Center complements activities designed to support talent and sector development with programs aimed at content creation, promotion and consumption.
One of the largest film producers in the Kingdom, Ithra Film Productions has helped dozens of filmmakers bring their dreams to life. It has produced more than 23 films, of which 15 have received local, regional and international awards. Ithra productions have been screened at 17 festivals around the world, while five are available to stream on Netflix.
Ithra’s first commissioned feature film was Joud (2018). Described as an “ancient poem for modern times”, the critically acclaimed film uses an experimental story structure derived from a pre-Islamic form of poetry, the “Qasida”. The dialogue-free film was shot in 16 locations across Saudi Arabia and screened at several international film festivals.
For more info and to apply for the fund, check out the Ithra Film Productions website.