Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation

The pair discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation in all fields, in addition to issues of mutual interest. (SPA/AFP)
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Updated 29 February 2024

Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a call from French President Emmanuel Macron, the Saudi Press Agency said early Thursday.

The pair discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation in all fields, in addition to issues of mutual interest.

They also exchanged views on several regional and international issues and the efforts made regarding them to achieve security and stability. 

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman admitted to hospital for routine checkup

Updated 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman admitted to hospital for routine checkup

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has been admitted to King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre in Jeddah for routine check up, state news agency (SPA) reported.

King Khalid Foundation, TATA sign pact to promote sustainable digital practices

Updated 24 April 2024

King Khalid Foundation, TATA sign pact to promote sustainable digital practices

  • University students urged to present proposals for ‘Sustainathon’ contest

RIYADH: The King Khalid Foundation has signed a cooperation agreement with TATA Consultancy Services to promote sustainable digital practices among university students in Saudi Arabia.

The initiative is called “Sustainathon” and aims to help students design projects that would assist in this field, according to a statement released by the foundation on Monday.

For three months, the King Khalid Foundation and the TCS will be running online seminars to help “Sustainathon” competitors with their proposals.

At the end of the period, the students will be required to present their ideas to a panel of judges.

Prizes will be awarded based on adherence to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as practical applications.

During the signing ceremony, the King Khalid Foundation was represented by its CEO Princess Nouf bint Muhammad bin Abdullah Al-Saud. The TCS was represented by its President and Regional Director for the Middle East and Africa Sumanta Roy.

The King Khalid Foundation and the TCS aim to develop cooperation between stakeholders in the private and not-for-profit sectors through information exchange and the sharing of expertise.

The King Khalid Foundation was established in 2001 as an independent national non-profit body. Its vision is to develop a prosperous society rooted in equality and sustainability.

World needs rewilding experiments, Riyadh forum told

Updated 24 April 2024

World needs rewilding experiments, Riyadh forum told

  • Kingdom ‘dedicated to restoring endangered species to natural habitats,’ expert says

RIYADH: The Kingdom is taking promising steps to balance its ecosystem by expanding rewilding efforts.

Rewilding is a method used to restore and sustain biodiversity by reintroducing wild animals, restoring wilderness areas and promoting natural processes.

During a discussion panel titled “Rewilding, Restoration and Reintroducing” at the inaugural Hima protected areas forum, held in Riyadh from April 21-24, Paul Marshall, head of NEOM Nature Reserve, along with other panelists such as Prof. Philip Seddon from the department of zoology at the University of Otago and Tim Coulson, head of biology at the University of Oxford, shared insights on the topic.

Ahmad Al-Boug, general manager of terrestrial habitat conservation at the National Center for Wildlife, said: “Our focus goes beyond reintroducing wildlife to protected areas. We’re dedicated to restoring native, endangered species to their natural habitats across the Kingdom, within their geographical range.”

Marshall explained some of the steps NEOM is taking to ensure the success of its program, adding: “Rewilding brings many things to our arid ecosystems … the first is ecological benefits. We restore natural dynamics and we rebuild populations.”

However, Marshall argued that rewilding can pose some ecological risks, including the potential for mismatches between reintroduced and existing species.

“I like to think of rewilding as an experiment … an experiment the world needs,” he said.

Another panelist, Robert Muir, technical adviser for the operationalization of protected areas at the National Center for Wildlife, shared steps for success in rewilding: “One is animal protection — making sure that the areas into which wildlife is being brought are sufficiently well protected. Drivers of threat and threats themselves that led to the degradation of habitat and wildlife should be sufficiently addressed.”

Speaking about the Kingdom’s efforts, Marshall said: “What’s remarkable about Saudi Arabia is its forward-thinking approach. It’s leading the way in economic development and social transformation. Equally inspiring is its commitment to conservation, making it a beacon for future generations.”

NEOM bred four Arabian oryx by late 2022. The species had not walked on Saudi sands during the previous century after being driven to near extinction in the wild.

The Kingdom is improving environmental protection programs throughout its reserves, ensuring sustainable practices.

The National Center for Wildlife organized the Hima forum to discuss conservation efforts for natural habitats and wildlife in Saudi Arabia.

It was inaugurated on Sunday by the minister of environment, water, and agriculture and chairman of the board of the center, Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli.

Since launching in 2019, the center has addressed challenges facing wildlife and marine ecosystems, aiming to protect the environment for future generations.

How resumption of movie screening provided a global platform for local Saudi talent

Updated 24 April 2024

How resumption of movie screening provided a global platform for local Saudi talent

  • Since cinemas reopened six years ago across the Kingdom, cumulative box office revenues are approaching the $1 billion mark
  • The Red Sea Film Foundation and the Saudi Film Fund support homegrown talent through programs and partnerships

RIYADH: This month, Saudi Arabia marks six years of movie screenings after a 35-year gap. Back then, the idea of a flourishing domestic film industry seemed improbable. Today, it has become a reality.

Since cinemas reopened on April 18, 2018, multiplexes have prospered, with accumulative box office revenues hitting almost $1 billion. Even the closures of the pandemic years were not enough to halt the industry’s meteoric rise.

Cities across the Kingdom now boast their own world-class movie theaters, screening the latest international blockbusters, regional hits and domestic productions, while homegrown film-making capability is now routinely spotlighted at local film festivals.

Saudis gather at a cinema theatre in Riyadh on April 30, 2018. (AFP)

With the launch of the Red Sea Film Festival in December 2021 and the establishment in 2020 of the Saudi Film Commission under the Ministry of Culture, many Saudis who were working in production houses overseas are now relocating to the Kingdom.

“The year 2018 marked a significant turning point for Saudi filmmakers and audiences as well,” Saudi film producer Mohammed Al-Turki, who was named CEO of the Red Sea Film Festival in 2022, told Arab News.

“The Saudi box office is growing rapidly. These achievements reflect the filmmakers’ passion for crafting captivating stories that are deeply embedded in our culture and resonate with an engaged local audience.”

The launch of the Red Sea Film Festival in 2021 prompted many Saudis who were working in production houses overseas to relocate to the Kingdom. (Red Sea Film Festival)

Saudi filmmakers are making their mark both locally and internationally. Among them are Tawfiq Al-Zaidi, the Qudus brothers, Ali Al-Kalthami, and Mishal Al-Jasser, said Al-Turki. “All tirelessly striving to deliver their finest work.”

The Red Sea Film Foundation, which was created in 2019 after the cinema ban was lifted, has become a catalyst for the industry’s expansion, staging one of the Middle East’s biggest film festivals in partnership with other major gatherings in the world cinema calendar.

RSFF has developed a variety of programs and initiatives specifically tailored to filmmakers from the Arab world, Africa, and Asia, with a special focus on Saudi filmmakers.

“Our programs include the Red Sea Fund, which offers financial support to film projects at various stages from development through to post-production,” said Al-Turki. “The Red Sea Labs provide a range of training workshops and courses for filmmakers.”

Winners and jury members posing on stage at the end of the second RSFF’s awards ceremony on December 8, 2022. (AFP)

Additionally, the Red Sea Souk acts as a networking hub, providing numerous developmental programs.

“Among our recent successful initiatives is our collaboration with the Series Mania festival, which has enabled several promising Saudi filmmakers to advance their television projects and gain exposure at one of the world’s foremost television festivals,” said Al-Turki.

“We continue to launch many value-adding programs aimed at nurturing rising Saudi talent.”



$1bn Accumulative box office revenues since Saudi cinemas reopened.


$100m Saudi Film Fund created to boost the domestic film sector.


The Kingdom has established several initiatives to support the industry. Most recently, a SR375 million ($100 million) Saudi Film Fund was unveiled by the government’s Cultural Development Fund in partnership with local investment firm MEFIC Capital and Roaa Media Ventures, a holding company that promotes local media projects and talent.

The fund will collaborate with major international studios to invest in film production that provides content reflecting Saudi culture and values.

Such government initiatives are also spurring the private sector. In 2023, Syed Ali launched 40Films KSA to work with local and international clients.

Ibraheem Alkhairallah on the set of Saudi film “Sattar,” where he portrayed the character of Abdulkhaleq, an undercover officer pretending to be a wrestling coach. (Supplied)

“This cinematic renaissance has made a positive impact on our business, fueling commitment to nurture more and meet the top standards being set daily in the market,” Ali, a Pakistani businessman based in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“The Kingdom is not just a consumer of global cinema; it is a creator, contributing its unique voice to the rich tapestry of world cinema. Saudi filmmakers are narrating stories that captivate audiences both at home and around the globe.” 

Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed, who is based between the Kingdom and Germany, says he has also benefited from the boom in the Saudi entertainment industry and will begin working on a film to be shot in the Eastern Province at the end of this year.

The film, titled “Drowning,” will be funded by the Red Sea Film Festival, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, and the Saudi Film Commission. “Without this support I would not have been able to shoot the film,” Saeed told Arab News.

“The great developments in the Saudi film industry have greatly contributed to the growth of my work as a young director. Through increased opportunities for collaboration and greater support I have access to resources and support that were previously unavailable to me.”

Two young Saudi film directors have been presented with trophies after winning the second edition of a 48-hour filmmaking challenge. (AN Photo/Ali Khameq)

During the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, the Saudi Film Commission announced an incentive program aimed at transforming the Kingdom into a global hub for film production. This included 40 percent returns for productions that hired local crews, among other initiatives.

The incentive program was announced a few months after the RSFF established the Red Sea Fund to support Arab and African filmmakers and directors. The $10 million fund has backed more than 250 projects since its launch.

It is through schemes such as these that the RSFF aims to foster “cultural connections,” providing a platform for up-and-coming film talent in the Kingdom, said Al-Turki.

The Saudi Film Commission is responsible for numerous initiatives that have helped bolster the Saudi industry at home and abroad by providing young Saudi filmmakers with opportunities.

One example is “Norah,” a Saudi production that will be screened at the 77th Cannes Film Festival this year in its “Un Certain Regard” section. It will be the first time a Saudi movie has been selected for the prestigious festival.

Directed by Saudi Tawfik Alzaidi and produced by American Paul Miller, formerly the head of finance at the Doha Film Institute, the film is the first Saudi movie shot entirely in the AlUla region.

Poster of Saudi movie “Norah.” (Supplied)

Supported by the Red Sea Fund, the film also clinched the top prize of a funding award from the Saudi Film Commission’s Daou Competition — an initiative launched by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture in September 2019 to bolster Saudi film production and nurture the country’s next generation of filmmakers.

Set in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s, the film follows Norah, a young Saudi woman who lives in a small village, who is introduced to Nader, an artist. Norah asks him to paint her portrait and soon an artistic relationship develops between them. 

The film, Alzaidi’s debut feature, explores the period of Saudi conservatism and the various forms of art that were banned. It examines how art can facilitate communication between people and foster social change.

In the run-up to the sixth anniversary of the lifting of the cinema ban, the Saudi Film Commission organized the fourth edition of the Gulf Cinema Festival, which ran from April 14 to 18.

This was the first time the festival was managed by a government agency, underlining the recognition of the socio-cultural and economic importance of the film industry for the Kingdom.

The Gulf Cinema Festival brought together several pioneers of Gulf cinema to share their visions and experiences in film production. (Supplied)

In a speech during the opening of the festival, the Film Commission’s CEO Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Qahtani said “this edition of the festival represents a crucial milestone in cultural cooperation among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and embodies our wise leadership’s commitment to enhancing collaboration among us,” according to SPA.

“This festival, which brings us together today, reflects the strong connection between ambition and the cultural strategy of the GCC countries, which play a significant role in enhancing cultural exchange, expanding infrastructure, drawing inspiration from successful experiences, and encouraging Gulf talents to offer more,” he said.

The booming Saudi entertainment industry is also attracting directors from across the world to shoot and produce films in the Kingdom.

Over the last 18 months, the landscapes of NEOM in the Tabuk region have been featured in several international films, including Ruper Wyatt’s “Desert Warrior,” starring Anthony Mackie and Sir Ben Kingsley; “Dunki” directed by Indian filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani starring Shahrukh Khan; the first regional reality TV show “Million Dollar Island;” and the “Rise of the Witches,” the region’s largest-ever budget TV show. 

As deals continue to be made and incentives offered for making movies in Saudi Arabia, the future looks bright not only for domestic movie theaters but also for local, regional and international filmmakers and producers intending to work and collaborate in the Kingdom.

“Despite these accomplishments, this is merely the start,” said Al-Turki. “Saudi cinema has much more to accomplish.”

Saudi FM receives Bahraini counterpart in Riyadh

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan receives his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani in Riyadh.
Updated 23 April 2024

Saudi FM receives Bahraini counterpart in Riyadh

  • During the meeting, the close relations between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and ways to strengthen them in various fields were reviewed

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani in Riyadh on Tuesday.

During the meeting, the close relations between their countries and ways to strengthen them in various fields were reviewed.

The ministers also discussed the latest regional and international developments and efforts made with regard to them.