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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: A celebration of Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning filmmaking industry was on Thursday held at Jeddah’s Hayy Cinema, the Kingdom’s first independent movie theater.
The one-day Aflamna (meaning, our films) program, staged as part of a collaboration with Cineways, powered by NEOM, showcased three short flicks produced and directed by a trio of Saudi filmmakers from the port city.
One of the movies, “When Red Blooms,” was directed by Tala Al-Harbi, winner of the Red Sea International Film Festival’s 48-hour Film Challenge 2022.
Through her film, the Effat University cinematic arts student took the Hayy Cinema audience on an introspective journey into the mind of a girl burdened by the weight of her own expectations.
Lama Jamjoom, another emerging filmmaker, and a cinematic arts major at the same Jeddah university, presented “Mother Eve,” a heart-warming tale redefining the meaning of motherhood.
Visual and performing arts specialist and director, Abdullah Al-Hijn, showcased his debut work “Tourette,” which tells the story of a young man with Tourette syndrome, a condition of the nervous system.
The film’s writer, Mariam Abdulrahman, said: “We wanted to create a full documentary about Tourette syndrome. However, we wanted the narration to reach the audience, so creating a short film was the best way for exposure.”
Zohra Ait El-Jamar, senior manager of Hayy Cinema, told Arab News: “Cinema is a place not only to watch films but to learn and exchange, and also engage with the audience to give that platform to aspiring Saudi filmmakers to showcase their work.”
El-Jamar said Hayy would be collaborating with this year’s Red Sea International Film Festival.
“We’re planning to do a second screening with three other Saudi shorts later in September,” she added.
In March, Hayy Cinema hosted Hayy Matsuri, a cultural and educational community festival and market that celebrated Japanese tradition, language, and art.
From a tea ceremony demonstration, to origami, Japanese calligraphy, and the art of flower arranging, the program also included musical performances and film screenings.
In May, “The Road to Makkah” was shown as part of the Islamic Arts Biennale, and in June, Hayy Cinema hosted the Red Sea Documentary Film Days, which presented six acclaimed documentaries from France, Guinea, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, exploring migration, camaraderie, and cinema archives.
El-Jamar said: “Whatever the institution or organization, if it is a like-minded one, we’re always open to collaboration.”
Hayy Cinema has launched a phone app for booking tickets online.
“Demand has been so high we have had to open our second cinema to accommodate audiences,” she added.
Cineways aims to nurture aspiring artists in the filmmaking industry, providing them with a comprehensive range of courses and workshops and helping develop Saudi talent to meet international standards. It works in collaboration with NEOM and the Saudi Film Commission.
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