Film festival opens in cinema-less Saudi Arabia

THE Saudi Film Festival opened Monday with 58 homegrown cinematic works to be screened in the ultra-conservative kingdom that continues to ban public cinemas.

"Welcome to all of you, filmmakers, makers of art and makers of hope," festival director Ahmed al-Mulla told participants at the opening ceremony, which was broadcast online.

The fourth edition of the festival had been slated to run from March 23-28 in the Gulf coastal city of Dhahran, but it was pushed back due to stormy weather.

This is the third consecutive annual film festival in Saudi Arabia after a hiatus of seven years.

The festival includes four competitions for feature films, documentaries, student productions, and unproduced scripts.

It is scheduled to open with a drama that resonates, as the kingdom's tentative efforts to expand entertainment face resistance from conservatives.

Wasati directed by Ali Alkalthami is based on the true story of extremists trying to disrupt a play at a university theatre in Riyadh 10 years ago.

Saudi Arabia late last year began a cautious push to introduce entertainment, despite opposition from Muslim hardliners.

Other events on offer for Saudi spectators have been the New York theatrical group iLuminate, the Comic-Con pop culture festival, and WWE wrestling. — AFP