Award-winning Saudi film ‘Norah’ premieres in theaters across the Kingdom

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A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah” was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Maria Bahrawi attends the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Maria Bahrawi and co-star Abdullah Al-Sadhan attend the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Maria Bahrawi and co-star Abdullah Al-Sadhan attend the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah” was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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Award-winning Saudi film ‘Norah’ premieres in theaters across the Kingdom

  • “Norah” achieved great success at the 78th annual Cannes International Film Festival
  • Film was first screened last December at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it won the “Best Saudi Film” award

RIYADH: The award-winning Saudi film “Norah” made its premiere in the Kingdom on Thursday after its international success at the Cannes Film Festival.

A special screening was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema, where director Tawfik Al-Zaidi was in attendance alongside the film’s star, Maria Bahrawi, and her acclaimed co-stars Yaqoub Al-Farhan and Abdullah Al-Sadhan.

Al-Farhan told Arab News: “To be accepted in Cannes is an indication of how important this film is, and also an indication of how much progress the film industry (has made) here.

“Although it’s still the beginning of it, we’re starting to see the results of the huge work that’s happening right now.

“I’m very positive about the future. If this is the beginning, I think after five or 10 years, we’ll be seeing a lot of great films from Saudi.”

“Norah” achieved great success at the 78th annual Cannes International Film Festival, where it was the official selection for the “Un Certain Regard” competition, one of the most critical titles of the event. It also received the Special Mention from the jury, making it the most notably recognized Saudi film at Cannes.

The film takes place in a remote Saudi village in the 90s, where Norah (played by Bahrawi) dreams of seeing horizons beyond her small village. As a new teacher, Nader (played by Al-Farhan) makes his way to her hometown, and Norah’s world begins to open up through art, knowledge and creativity, leading her to discover more about her own family history.

“The fact that they chose me for the role only two weeks before production was a surprise for me. But, thankfully, my first role in a film was a success and reached international audiences. I’m very proud and happy that today it’ll be in cinemas and the world can see it, and I’m excited to see people’s reactions,” Bahrawi told Arab News.

While it was first screened last December at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it won the “Best Saudi Film” award, the nationwide cinema premiere is a culmination of the film’s journey to its intended audience: the Saudi public.

Bahrawi said: “The fact that they chose me for the role only two weeks before production was a surprise for me. But, thankfully, my first role in a film was a success and reached international audiences. I’m very proud and happy that today it’ll be in cinemas and the world can see it, and I’m excited to see people’s reactions.

“Since I was young, I’ve always dreamed of being an actress, and today I can say that I’ve reached that and acted in my first film as a lead role… AlUla was the city that made my first dream come true.”

Taking public participation even further, a competition was presented to the public last Thursday inviting all girls named Norah to play a part. About 500 girls took part, and two winners received tickets to the special pre-screening event.

“Norah” is the first Saudi feature to be filmed entirely in AlUla. “The city itself and its locations really complemented the film’s story, so that was a wonderful choice for the location,” Bahrawi said.

While the film is both Bahrawi’s debut on the big screen and Al-Zaidi’s first feature film, it was also a personal experience for Al-Farhan, who is widely known for his role in the TV mini series “Rashash.”

“There’s so many similarities between me and the character, which is why it’s a very personal project for me and it’s so dear to my heart, especially after the achievement of the Cannes Film Festival,” he said.

In preparation for the role, Al-Farhan spent time with a professional sketch artist in order to learn the craft for his role — even simple things like holding a pencil the right way.

He said that the beginning sketches featured in the film were his own work, but the final results were “by a real artist.”

Production was supported by the Film Commission through Daw, a national initiative to support and encourage Saudi filmmakers. The film also received support from Film AlUla, the Red Sea Film Fund and Generation 2030.

The inspiration for “Norah” came to Al-Zaidi in 2015 from his need to express something within him. In the same way that Al-Farhan’s character, Nader, portrays his feelings on sketchbooks and canvases, Al-Zaidi uses the big screen.

He told Arab News: “I’m a lover of art in all its forms, whether its music, drawing or visiting museums, cinema encapsulates all of these arts and shows them beautifully through a film’s crew.

“I wanted to create these emotions between two people who love art, Norah and Nader. Art is a means of communication between people, and a means of expression as well.”

As the Saudi film scene continues to develop and grow toward global horizons, Al-Zaidi is confident that the industry can overcome challenges.

“Challenges will always be there, but as they say, ‘success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan’ ... if you believe in yourself, you will get there,” he said.


Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 

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Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 

  • Competition open to original works in Arabic, and all nationalities and ages will be eligible

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has launched an award for fiction writing, with winners sharing total prizemoney of $690,000 and successful works to be adapted into film.

Unveiling the Golden Pen Award for Novels on Saturday, Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said that the competition will benefit Arab novelists and the regional film industry.

The competition will be open to original works in Arabic, and all nationalities and ages will be eligible.

In a post on social media platform X, Alalshikh said that the first and second-place winners of the grand prize will be awarded $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, with their works being adapted into films produced by the GEA.

The third place winner will receive $30,000.

Additionally, the Novel Tracks Awards will grant $25,000 each to the best novels in categories such as romance, thriller, mystery, comedy, action, fantasy, investigative, horror, and historical fiction.

Prizes for the Best Screenplay Adapted from a Literary Work will also be awarded, with $100,000 for first place, $50,000 for second, and $30,000 for third. The Best Translated Novel Award will offer $100,000, while the Audience Award, determined through a dedicated electronic voting platform, will provide $30,000.

Alalshikh said that the main judging panel will consist of three novelists, three screenwriters, and three producers from the Arab world, along with an auxiliary committee for the initial screening stage.

Competition winners will be announced at a grand awards ceremony to be broadcast on television and various platforms.
 


King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

Updated 20 July 2024
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King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

  • KSGAAL is hosting Arabic Language Month for Indian students and teachers
  • Initiative is in line with Human Capability Development Program of Vision 2030

NEW DELHI: India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language in the wake of growing commercial exchanges with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s top linguistic institution has said, as it conducted a series of programs for Indian scholars and learners.

Students and lecturers from the Indian universities and colleges that teach Arabic courses are taking part in training sessions, workshops and competitions as part of the Arabic Language Month organized by the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language.

The event, which aims to develop and improve the teaching of Arabic for non-native speakers in the world’s most populous nation, began online in late June and runs until July 26.

The main host is Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, which has been teaching Arabic for decades.

“India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language, driven by a growing demand for learning Arabic within its vast and diverse human, linguistic and cultural landscape,” KSGAAL Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Washmi told Arab News on Friday.

“Despite India’s diverse multilingual landscape, there is a growing interest in learning Arabic, fueled by increasing commercial activities and cultural exchanges.”

The Arabic Language Month in India features a range of educational activities led by Saudi linguists affiliated with the KSGAAL — from competitions and workshops to enhance Arabic language teaching curricula at different educational institutions, to specialized sessions for instructors to familiarize them with the most recent teaching methodology.

“These activities are conducted in different educational institutions across India, with the primary goal of fostering stronger relationships with Indian universities that have an interest in teaching Arabic,” Al-Washmi said.

“Moreover, the Arabic Language Month serves as a platform to highlight the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts in promoting and teaching the Arabic language through innovative methods. This initiative is in line with the objectives of the Human Capability Development Program, a key component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

Upholding and promoting the Arabic language is part of the Vision 2030 transformation strategy, which also focuses on the development of skills and academia.

“The program also focuses on enhancing the teaching skills of Arabic language educators, both locally and globally, particularly in non-native speaking communities,” Al-Washmi said.

“These initiatives include supporting modern activities for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, enhancing the teaching competencies of instructors, and organizing scientific competitions to discover and encourage individuals with linguistic talents.”


KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

Updated 20 July 2024
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KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed 25,000 bags of bread in Akkar Governorate and Miniyeh District in Lebanon.

The distribution comes as part of KSrelief’s Al-Amal Charitable Bakery project to support Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, and the host community living in northern Lebanon, benefiting 125,000 individuals.

KSrelief continues to distribute bread to refugee families in northern Lebanon. (SPA)

Elsewhere, KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10.

During the program, rolled out in cooperation with the Albasar International Foundation, KSrelief's volunteer medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful eye surgeries.

KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10. (SPA)

 


Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

  • Partnership aims to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states
  • Special attention will be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they have equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields

PARIS: Mawhiba, an endowment organization that aims to nurture talented Saudi students in the scientific field, has signed a partnership agreement with UNESCO to foster science, technology, engineering and mathematics education across Arab countries.

The agreement was signed on July 19 in Paris by Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Subail, Mawhiba deputy secretary-general for business development and communication, and Lidia Arthur Brito, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for natural sciences, Mawhiba said in a news release carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Mawhiba is the short name for the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, which was organized in 1999 in honor of Saudi Arabia’s founding king.

Brito said that the partnership aimed to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states, ”focusing on refining their scientific knowledge, nurturing creativity, and fostering critical thinking.”

It sought ”to provide young people with the necessary knowledge and capabilities and to motivate them to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to meet global challenges,” she said.

Brito said that the experience would help in exchanging these experiences globally, adding that ”there is potential for expanding these efforts to Africa and other parts of the world to promote sustainable development goals.”

Special attention would be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they had equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields, she said.

Mawhiba has identified 97,000 gifted students out of more than 300,000 tested in more than 100 cities and villages across the Kingdom. Its sponsorship of more than 54,000 students and its participation in international science competitions for talented youth has reaped global recognition for the Kingdom. 

Saudi students have so far won more than 397 medals and prizes in these competitions, developed in excess of 16,000 ideas, acquired 15 patents, and more than 1,000 Saudi students were accepted in the world’s top 50 prestigious universities in distinguished disciplines that met the needs of national development plans, the SPA report said.

Mawhiba Secretary-General Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa emphasized the shared commitment to empowering young Arab minds and advancing sustainable development through education and innovation. She underscored the importance of this collaboration within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.

Central to the initiative is the MAWHIBA-UNESCO Online STEM Oasis, which will serve as a global platform for local, national and regional science and engineering fairs. 

The partnership will focus on training Arab science teachers to lead research and guide students in scientific projects, thereby enhancing the overall quality of STEM education, the Mawhiba news release said.

“Mawhiba is committed to expanding the use of the UNESCO Open Science Portal and the UNESCO Science-2-Innovation Network to build the capacity of young scientists and women in STEM education globally.

“Over the past three years, Mawhiba has supported 839 students from Arab states through enriching STEM programs, setting a precedent for regional cooperation and development in STEM education,” it added.

By joining forces with UNESCO, Mawhiba aims to amplify its ability to address global challenges such as climate change, health crises and technological disruptions, it said.


Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories

Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories

  • The Kingdom calls for practical steps to reach a just solution to the Palestinian cause
  • MWL says the ruling is "a positive step towards the human and legal right of the Palestinian people to reach a just and comprehensive solution to their cause"

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has welcomed a ruling by UN’s top court that Israel’s settlement policy on Palestinian territory breaks international law.
The Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement that the Kingdom welcomed the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice and called for practical steps to reach a just solution to the Palestinian cause.
The World Court issued the judgment, which is non-binding, on Friday.

A sign stands in the Palestinian village of Battir, a UNESCO heritage site in the occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem, which is now threatened by Israeli settlers trying to build a new, illegal outpost. (AFP)

In a separate statement, the Saudi-based Muslim World League described the ICJ ruling as "a positive step towards the human and legal right of the Palestinian people to reach a just and comprehensive solution to their cause."

MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, who is also chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, said the decision, although non-binding, ensures that Palestinians "obtain their legitimate rights to self-determination and establishing their independent state in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant international legitimacy resolutions."

The court panel found “the transfer by Israel of settlers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as Israel’s maintenance of their presence, is contrary to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The ruling comes against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating bombardment on Gaza, following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli settlements adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.
Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, but Palestinians consider the areas as integral part of a future independent state.

A view of Battir, a UNESCO heritage Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem, which is now threatened by Israeli settlers trying to build a new, illegal outpost. (AFP)

The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday condemned the “continued genocidal massacres” against the Palestinian people amid Israel’s battle with Hamas in Gaza.
The Kingdom wants an independent state for the Palestinian people, encompassing the 1967 borders.
The US and regional players have been attempting to end the conflict in Gaza through a peace deal between Hamas and Israel, which would include the release of Israeli hostages and a form of lasting cessation of military activities.

(With SPA)