After the reopening of cinemas in April in the Wahhabi Kingdom, nine short films will be presented for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival.
For the first time in its history, Saudi Arabia has invited itself to the Cannes Film Festival, and is preparing to present nine short films on May 14 and 15. A small event on the Croisette, the presence of a Saudi cinema council pavilion on the beaches of the Riviera is a real state affair seen from Riyadh. Since the Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman presented its plan of economic and social reform, Vision 2030, it is the effervescence in the country of Mecca. The voluntarist train of the opening is running. And everyone wants to climb in there.
After thirty-five years of ban, big screens are back. In April, a hall and a multiplex opened in Riyadh - a bored city, unless you like to spend your life in shopping malls. Located in a financial district, white and gigantic, the new AMC room displays full every day - despite an entry price of 10 euros. Tuesday, May 1, it was planned Avengers, the superhero movie that has exceeded one billion dollars in revenue in just eleven days.
At the entrance, the openers distributed the fourteen behavioral rules to adopt in a dark room: do not speak too loudly, arrive at the beginning of the session, do not film with your cellphone, have an outfit "in accordance with the values of the kingdom" . The women were sitting next to the men, and everyone was picking popcorn in giant buckets. Banal scene, if we ignore the long coats and Islamic headscarves, non-negotiable passport. "These rooms are collective and family spaces, which respond to the Saudis' desire for leisure," summarizes Bader Alzahrani, General Director of Media Development at the General Audiovisual Media Commission (CGMA).
While in some parts of the world, cinemas close one by one, Saudi Arabia has seen wide: AMC and Vox, two US operators, have got their hands on a market of 350 screens and 2500 screens by 2030 , distributed throughout the country, including in the most traditional regions. The offer, we guess, will be "family". A censorship commission, installed in the buildings of the CGMA, ensures the grain, with a system of drastic prohibition - all public, less than 12, 15 or 18 years. The sex scenes will obviously be cut.
Whatever. There are many "mainstream" international films that do not need a chisel. After Black Panther or Avengers will come the turn of Indestructible 2. "We are not new to the image," laughs Sultan Al Mutairi, a producer who works on Saudi television networks. It's been years since the Saudis are watching what they want on YouTube or even Netflix. And we do not even talk about piracy, which is a national sport. "The 350 Saudi cinemas will avoid the better-off to go to Bahrain or Dubai to see the latest outings. And will give air to young people: 65% of the population is under 35 years old. "Eventually, it will also broadcast a local production, hopes, for its part, the director Ali Kalthami. Because the Saudi story has not been told yet. "
For now, the country's production is limited to a few feature films, and TV programs, including many B series - by Western standards. France nevertheless discovered, in 2012, the first feature film of Haifaa al-Mansour, wadjdawho told the story of a little girl's fight for a bicycle, and through him, that of her mother to be able to drive. The director had to hide in a truck and direct her actors from a distance. She has since settled in Los Angeles, like so many young Saudi artists who have fled a society too corseted. Those who stayed between taboos - besides sex, there can be no question of politics or religion in the movies - and the window of freedom that opened half a year ago. Every short film, advertisement or documentary requires a work of dentelier.
Everyone gropes, tries to protect themselves from censorship, but also possible rejections of the public. "I introduced a bare-headed actress in one of my series, which barely a year ago would have brought down the authorities," said Sultan Al Mutairi. But I go forward counted. It would be counterproductive to fight all the battles at the same time. "Last year, Hind Alfahad filmed the story of street vendors," we see but do not look. " The director spent two months on the sidewalk with one of them, in difficult conditions, passersby not understanding what a woman was doing there, camera in hand. Hind, a multiple award winner in neighboring countries, was the first to use crowdfunding for his next short film on the Indiegogo platform. Success exceeded expectations and federated a community of hope. With Hanna Al Omair, another director who has just been appointed to the Film Council by the authorities and made the trip to Cannes, she is now convinced: "The company will never go back."
- For the return of cinema in Saudi Arabia, a test session with Black Panther
- Awwad Alawwad: "Our cultural plan for Saudi Arabia is shock therapy"
- Saudi Arabia invited for the first time on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival
- After 35 years of ban, opening of a first cinema in Saudi Arabia