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The Saudi Film Commission plans to attract foreign productions


Abdullah Al Eyya Al-Qahtani, the CEO of the Saudi Film Commission, presented the organisation’s initiatives and its future plans during the recent Malmö Arab Film Festival

The Saudi Film Commission plans to attract foreign productions
A moment from the discussion with Abdullah Al Eyya Al-Qahtani, CEO of the Saudi Film Commission

The Malmö Arab Film Festival (MAFF) kicked off on 4 May 2022, unspooling its 12th edition after two years of pandemic-related interruptions. The festival aims to create a platform and a meeting place for Arab cinema in Malmö, Sweden and all over Europe. The MAFF hosts many premieres and screenings, and also organises the Industry Days, the goal of which is to bring together producers, financiers, filmmakers and distributors alike. The novelty this year was the guest of honour: the newly created Saudi Film Commission. Founded in 2020 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, the Saudi Film Commission is gaining momentum after the lifting of the 35-year ban on cinema in the country. On this occasion, the Saudi Film Commission was a partner of the MAFF, to which it brought along a sizeable delegation.

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The first talk during the festival’s Industry Days was a conversation with Abdullah Al Eyya Al-Qahtani, who was appointed as CEO of the film authority in June 2020. He is a novelist, filmmaker and engineer, and he revels in the opportunity for the Film Commission to work with filmmakers on building decent infrastructures and creating a strong benchmark together. He started by underlining that Saudi filmmakers didn’t wait for the Film Commission to exist in order to start creating cinema. In fact, Saudi film professionals have been producing movies for the last 30 years, and an extensive cinematic heritage exists in the country. Although from now on they will no longer have to work “outside the system”, it is a chance for the new Film Commission to include them in its development every step of the way and to really tailor the organisation to their needs.

In terms of collaboration with foreign partners, Saudi Arabia has already engaged in two productions with the USA as the main producers. Al Eyya Al-Qahtani explained that those projects were great opportunities for the Film Commission to gain experience and to test the waters in order to realise what was needed and what could be improved so as to attract more foreign productions. The two US productions were big-budget blockbuster types, but the Film Commission CEO insisted that their objective is to attract all types of productions. There will be financial incentives and other strategies set up in order to make the industry as diverse as possible, as well as attract various foreign productions.

Unfortunately, it is a little early for the Saudi Film Commission to share exactly what the financial incentives and other actions put in place will be. However, the team will be present at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (17-28 May), where they will have a pavilion in the Village International, and they plan on presenting their entire infrastructure there. In the meantime, you can visit their website here.

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