Censor and sensibility: Saudi scriptwriter aims to encourage local filmmakers

A Saudi family accompanies their child, who is wearing a Jason Voorhees hockey mask during an entertainment event in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2018

Censor and sensibility: Saudi scriptwriter aims to encourage local filmmakers

  • Afnan Linjawi explains how things have changed from 1896 to 2000, and why
  • The Jeddah native has written and directed stage plays, as well as having several scripts under her belt

JEDDAH: Saudi filmmakers should not be discouraged by censorship in the Kingdom, according to scriptwriter Afnan Linjawi.

Linjawi was leading a seminar organized by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Art (SASCA) and gave a talk about censorship at home and in Hollywood.

The events have been held since the beginning of the year and cover cinema-related topics.

“We hold these seminars because we want to introduce the cinema industry to people here, to educate them about the workings of the industry, how to look at it from a business and artistic perspective and how to get them into the industry,” Linjawi told Arab News.

The Jeddah native has written and directed stage plays, as well as having several scripts under her belt.

“It is a positive time for Saudi filmmakers right now. Cinemas are opening and I hope cinemas continue to flourish and to open and stay. I hope that we get to see a more national flavor of films and not just a copy and paste of the Hollywood format, because I believe films are an important vehicle for cultural advancement. So we want to create something that’s ours as Saudis, as people living in Saudi Arabia.” 

She gave an overview of Hollywood censorship at the seminar, explaining how it had changed from 1896 to 2000 and why.

Hollywood was not as liberal as people thought because there had long been rules that affected who could watch what films at the cinema, she said. 

Violent scenes and sexual content often determined if scenes were to be censored, she added, but the advent of sites including Netflix meant that people had greater access than ever to movies with no need for a cinema.

Censorship was no excuse to go into the film industry, she said, because the limitations of what was acceptable changed in line with a country’s political and economic status.

There was no way of knowing what might upset people and what a government might do about it, she added, and that film culture could still grow even with censorship.

“My message is more directed to filmmakers who may feel discouraged by the idea of censorship in our country and I just want to encourage them that it should not be an excuse.”

“As a big fan of Hollywood movies I found the talk was very inspirational and helped me a lot in getting the concept of censorship and to what extent it can be applied,” said audience member Abdulla Omar.

Linjawi’s work can be found here: www.screenwriterafnan.com


Saudi Aramco shares soar at maximum 10% on market debut

Updated 11 December 2019

Saudi Aramco shares soar at maximum 10% on market debut

  • Company is now world’s largest publicly traded company, bigger than Apple
  • More than top five oil companies combined

RIYADH: Saudi Aramco shares opened at 35.2 riyals ($9.39) on Wednesday at the Kingdom’s stock exchange, 10 percent above their IPO price of 32 riyals, in their first day of trading following a record $26.5 billion initial public offering.
Aramco had earlier priced its IPO at 32 riyals ($8.53) per share, the high end of the target range, surpassing the $25 billion raised by Chinese retail giant Alibaba in its 2014 Wall Street debut.
Aramco’s earlier indicative debut price was seen at 35.2 riyals, 10 per cent above IPO price, raising the company’s valuation to $1.88 trillion, Refintiv data showed.
At that price, Aramco is world’s most valuable listed company. That’s more than the top five oil companies – Exxon Mobil, Total, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and BP – combined.
“Today Aramco will become the largest listed company in the world and (Tadawul) among the top ten global financial markets,” Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chairwoman of the Saudi Arabian stock exchange, said during a ceremony marking the oil giant’s first day of trading.
“Aramco today is the largest integrated oil and gas company in the world. Before Saudi Arabia was the only shareholder of the company, now there are 5 million shareholders including citizens, residents and investors,” said Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the managing director and chief executive of the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
“Aramco’s IPO will enhance the company’s governance and strengthen its standards.”
Amin Nasser, the president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, meanwhile thanked the new shareholders for their confidence and trust of the oil company.
The sale of 1.5 percent of the firm, or three billion shares, is the bedrock of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious strategy to overhaul the oil-reliant economy.
Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange earlier said it will hold an opening auction for Aramco shares for an hour from 9:30 a.m. followed by continuous trading, with price changes limited to plus or minus 10 percent.

The company said Friday it could exercise a “greenshoe” option, selling additional shares to bring the total raised up to $29.4 billion.
The market launch puts the oil behemoth’s value at $1.7 trillion, far ahead of other firms in the trillion-dollar club, including Apple and Microsoft.
Two-thirds of the shares were offered to institutional investors. Saudi government bodies accounted for 13.2 percent of the institutional tranche, investing around $2.3 billion, according to lead IPO manager Samba Capital.
The IPO is a crucial part of Prince Mohammed’s plan to wean the economy away from oil by pumping funds into megaprojects and non-energy industries such as tourism and entertainment.
Watch the video marking Aramco’s opening trading: