Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Film Production unveils two new films at Cannes 

Head of performing arts and cinema at Ithra Majed Z. Samman and Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy. (@Ithra)
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Updated 14 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra Film Production unveils two new films at Cannes 

  • The films are part of Ithra’s commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries
  • Both movies, which are being produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, are scheduled for release in 2023

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is unveiling two new films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The projects are part of its contribution to the Saudi Pavilion, which is being hosted by the Saudi Film Commission at the festival.
Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy will introduce his Ithra-commissioned film “Sea of Sands” alongside the unveiling of Saudi independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad’s “Valley Road.” 
The films are part of Ithra’s commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries.




Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy will introduce his Ithra-commissioned film “Sea of Sands” alongside the unveiling of Saudi independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad’s “Valley Road.” (Arab News/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

Both movies, which are being produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, are scheduled for release in 2023.
Ithra said the cast and crew for both would consist of aspiring Saudi talent, which would nurture a generation of film creatives.
They follow the successful international release of Ithra’s first commissioned film “Joud,” which is described as “an unconventional meditation on the cycle of life” and an “ancient poem for modern times.”
The film uses an experimental story structure derived from a pre-Islamic form of poetry, the qasida, and is dialogue-free. It was shot in 16 locations across Saudi Arabia and screened at several international film festivals.




Ithra said the cast and crew for both would consist of aspiring Saudi talent, which would nurture a generation of film creatives. (Arab News/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

“Ithra Film Productions is a leading indie film producer in Saudi Arabia,” said Majed Z. Samman, head of performing arts and cinema at Ithra and producer of both new films. “We support the Kingdom’s growing film industry by nurturing homegrown talent and fostering cinema and filmmaking in Saudi Arabia. We are honored to announce our next two projects at one of the world’s most prestigious film fairs as part of the Saudi Pavilion at Cannes Film Festival.”
Hefzy has written, produced and co-produced nearly 40 feature films in Egypt, the US, the UK and the Arab world. 
“Sea of Sands” is a coming-of-age story about a young Bedouin orphan and a camel who form a special bond and embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia.
“Ithra has played a significant role in supporting independent filmmakers from Saudi Arabia at a critical time just as the Kingdom’s booming film industry begins to take shape,” said Hefzy. “I am thrilled to work with them and all the Saudi and Arab talent who will be joining this exciting project.”




“Sea of Sands” is a coming-of-age story about a young Bedouin orphan and a camel who form a special bond and embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia. (Arab News/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

The film will be shot in various locations across Saudi Arabia.
“Valley Road” follows the journey of an autistic man called Ali who gets lost on his way to see a doctor. He finds himself alone in the middle of nowhere, but a series of obstacles and challenges cannot stop him from discovering the world ahead of him.
Apart from Ithra’s commissioned films, the center is also the driving force behind several initiatives supporting the Kingdom’s film industry.
Ithra Cinema provides a space for the country’s film talent to hone their skills and showcase their work.
It is home to initiatives and programs such as Saudi Film Production, Saudi Film Days, and the Ithra Film Society.
Ithra is also the cradle of the annual Saudi Film Festival, which supports local talent and focuses on content development.
Ithra Film Productions has produced 20 films, of which 15 have won local, regional and international awards.
The center also offers people a learning experience through a training and shadowing program, providing an opportunity for those who are passionate about filmmaking to craft their career in the field.

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Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis

Updated 17 September 2021

Malaysia’s top tourist destination reopens despite country’s ongoing COVID-19 crisis

  • Reopening of Langkawi part of domestic tourism bubble strategy to restore Malaysia’s reeling visitor sector
  • Only fully vaccinated domestic travelers allowed to visit island resort as 30,000 tourists expected in next 2 weeks

KUALA LUMPUR:  The Malaysian holiday resort of Langkawi on Thursday welcomed its first visitors in months as part of a government pilot project to revive the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic-ravaged tourism sector.

Langkawi has been reopened as a domestic tourism bubble in the face of Malaysia’s ongoing battle against the virus.

The government strategy is aimed at giving a much-needed shot in the arm to the hospitality and tourism industry — one of the top contributors to the Malaysian economy — after months of local travel curbs and if successful it could lead to other holiday destinations following suit.

Tight restrictions have been put in place and only fully vaccinated domestic tourists will be allowed to visit the island resort off the country’s northwestern coast.

Malaysia has so far recorded more than 2 million COVID-19 cases among its population of 32 million — one the of highest per capita infection rates in Asia — and new daily case figures remain high at around 20,000.

The country’s director general of health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, told Arab News the Langkawi Travel Bubble Task Force had divided the island into three zones to monitor developments. “All preparations have been made and we hope for the best,” he said.

A cabin of a cable car is seen on its way up to Sky Bridge in Langkawi, Malaysia on Sept. 16, 2021, as it reopens to domestic tourists. (REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng)

Local officials said they were ready to receive more than 30,000 tourists in Langkawi over the next two weeks.

Nasaruddin Abdul Muttalib, chief executive officer of the Langkawi Development Authority, said: “We have put in proper procedures so that there is no spread of the virus.

“Passengers will be screened at entry points. If they show any symptoms, they must isolate, and necessary steps will be taken. We have thought of all the scenarios.”

Authorities are banking on the full cooperation of visitors as the project’s success could be key to Malaysia’s return to normal.

Tourism Langkawi chairman, Pishol Ishak, said: “Everybody has a role to play. If everybody works together hand-in-hand, this measure will be very successful and can be replicated in other parts of Malaysia.”

For Langkawi business owners and travelers flying to the resort, famed for its white sandy beaches, the reopening represents a big first step toward a return to normality.

Sheba Gumis, a 33-year-old tourist from Kuala Lumpur, told Arab News: “We have been cooped up in Kuala Lumpur for over a year now. Life was put on hold for so long. The virus will continue to live with us.”

Ahmad Firdaus, a car rental company owner in Langkawi, said it was high time tourism reopened for the sake of the industry’s survival.

“We have to go on doing businesses in this new norm. We need tourist spots to be open to gain income. Even if the situation is bad, we must learn to live with it,” he added.

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