Cinema of Saudi Arabia

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The cinema of Saudi Arabia is a fairly small industry that only produces a few feature films and documentaries every year.

With the exception of one IMAX theater in Khobar there are no cinemas in Saudi Arabia,[1] although there is occasionally talk of opening movie theaters, and in 2008 conference rooms were rented to show the comedy Mennahi.[2] Many Saudis watch films via satellite, DVD, or video.

Keif al-Hal?, released in 2006, was billed as Saudi Arabia's first film; however, it was shot in the United Arab Emirates and the lead female was played by a Jordanian. The 2012 film Wadjda had an all-Saudi cast[3] and was the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.[4] The film Barakah Yoqabil Barakah by director Mahmoud Sabbagh was shot in Jeddah in 2015, premiered the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, making it the first feature film to participate in the festival. Sameera Aziz is the first Saudi filmmaker in famous Indian cinema Bollywood.[5]


Keif al-Hal? triggered a debate on the country's stance on cinemas and films. The documentary short film directed by Abdullah Al-Eyaf called Cinema 500 km discussed the issue of banning movie theaters and the film forced the media to take up the issue and discuss it. Wadjda was selected as the Saudi Arabian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards - the first time the country made a submission for the Oscars[6] - but it was not nominated.[7][8][9] It earned a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 2014 BAFTA Awards.

Barakah Yoqabil Barakah was the first feature film from Saudi to participate in the Berlin International Film Festival; it won a jury award at the festival.

Movie theaters

In the 1970s, there were many movie theaters in Saudi Arabia and they were not considered un-Islamic, though they were seen as contrary to Arab cultural norms.

In the 1980s, there were some improvised movie halls in Saudi Arabia, most of which were in Jeddah and Mecca, where Egyptian, Indian, and Turkish films were screened without government intervention. However, all these halls were closed due to the continuous objections of religious conservatives during the Islamic revival movement in the 1980s. As a political response to an increase in Islamist activism including the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the government closed all cinemas and theaters.[10]

The only[11] public theater in Saudi Arabia is an IMAX cinema located in Khobar in the Scitech complex, a science and technology center offering exhibits that deal with varying science and technologies, as well as an astronomic observatory. This IMAX cinema is showing documentaries, mostly produced in the United States, during non-prayer timings. The documentaries are shown in Arabic, and headphones are available with English audio.

On December 11, 2017, the Saudi Arabian Minister of Culture and Information announced that public movie theaters would be allowed by 2018.[12] The government hopes that by 2030, Saudi Arabia will already have more than 300 theaters with over 2,000 movie screens.[13]

Video rental stores

Video rental stores started appearing in the 1980s and offered Arabic, Western, and Asian movies. By the late 1990s, the increasing number of free-to-air satellite TV channels prompted most video stores to go out of business.

Saudi films

  • Dhilal al Sammt (Shadow of Silence; 2004)
  • Cinema 500 km (2006)
  • Keif al-Hal? (2006)
  • Women without Shadows (Nisaa Bil Thil; 2006)
  • I Don' Wanna (2008)
  • Shadow (2008)
  • Three Men and a Woman (2008)
  • According to Local Time (2008)
  • Sunrise/Sunset (2008)
  • Last Day (2008)
  • Project (2008)
  • Wadjda (2013)
  • Barakah Yoqabil Barakah (2016)

Films shot in Saudi Arabia

  • Exile Family Movie (Austrian; 2006)
  • Le Grand Voyage (French; 2004) - partly filmed in Mecca
  • Malcolm X (American; 1992) - the first non-documentary to be given permission to film in Mecca
  • Le Schiave Esistono Ancora (Italian; 1964)
  • Wadjda (Saudi-German; 2013)
  • Barakah Yoqabil Barakah (Saudi; 2016)

Saudi directors

  • Abdullah Al-Muheisen
  • Mohammad Makki
  • Abdullah Al-Eyaf
  • Haifaa al-Mansour
  • Yousef Linjawi
  • Mohammad Aldhahri
  • Mohammad Al Khalif
  • Abdulmuhsin Almutairi
  • Hussam Alhulwah
  • Mohammed Alhamoud
  • Mohamed Alsalman
  • Abdulmohsen Al-Dhabaan
  • Nawaf Almuhanna
  • Mohammed Salman
  • Mohammed Albash
  • Mosa althounian
  • Mohana abdullah
  • Mahmoud Sabbagh
  • Gigi Hozimah
  • abdulmuhsen alquseer
  • Sameera Aziz

Saudi actors


  1. ^ Lapin, Andrew. "Wadjda director Haifaa Al Mansour". Dissolve. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "SAUDI ARABIA: Going to the movies for the first time in decades". LA Times. 23 December 2008. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Davies, Catriona. "The film director who's not allowed to go to the movies". CNN World. Inside the Middle East. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "rotten tomatoes. Wadjda". Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Bollywood's first Saudi filmmaker works on maiden venture". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 11 December 2017. 
  6. ^ "Oscars: Saudi Arabia Nominates 'Wadjda' for Foreign Language Category". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  7. ^ "Oscars: Saudi Arabia Taps 'Wadjda' As First Foreign-Language Entry". Variety. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "'Wadjda' is Saudi Arabia's first nominee for foreign-language Oscar". LA Times. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Saudi Arabia submits first film for Oscars with 'Wadjda'". Gulf News. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  10. ^ Admon, Y. (11 March 2010). "Revival of Cinema Sparks Debate in Saudi Arabia" (Inquiry and Analysis Series Report No.595). Middle East Media Research Institute. Retrieved 27 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "IMAX 'to double' number of Middle East cinemas". Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  12. ^ "Saudi Arabia to allow cinemas from 2018". 11 December 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017 – via 
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia says cinemas will be allowed from early 2018". 11 December 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017 – via Reuters. 

See also

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