MIDDLE EAST

Cinema in Saudi Arabia and Ali Salem’s dream

Saudi author Abdo Khal’s comment on the recent Saudi decision to allow cinemas attracted my attention.

Khal celebrated the decision because it may help pave way towards achieving his dream of turning one of his novels into a movie. Khal’s works are special, particularly the one he wrote about the southern Tihamah society and Jeddah’s popular neighborhoods. He is also a winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

This is just one of the many results which we will reap now that the Saudi government has finally decided to allow the cinema industry to operate.

Two-thirds of the society consist of youths. Although cinema is not exclusive to a single category, youths are actually the most important. Saudi youths are thus looking forward to have their skills and talents employed in the industry or to just benefit from it by watching movies.   

A plan for the weekend 

Saudi citizens as well as residents will now have a plan for the weekend. Going to the movies is not something that just requires one or two hours as there are also activities one can do before and after watching a movie. This means the family will spend a healthy day out.

The point here though is not to list the psychological, social, cultural, economic and political benefits of cinema. Yes, I definitely praise this amazing decision. However, we actually hope that another industry is unleased – an industry that actually helped found the cinema, television and other acting industries. I am referring here to the ‘father of arts,’ the theatre.

Mashari Althaydi



The point here though is not to list the psychological, social, cultural, economic and political benefits of cinema. Yes, I definitely praise this amazing decision. However, we actually hope that another industry is unleased – an industry that actually helped found the cinema, television and other acting industries. I am referring here to the ‘father of arts,’ the theatre.

Many internationally acclaimed actors actually began working in the theatre before moving to the cinema industry. Some examples are Welsh actor Anthony Hopkins and Arab actors Hassan Hosny and Sabry Fawwaz.

Also in Saudi Arabia, many television actors are the sons of the theatre like Al-Qasabi, Al Sadhan, Al-Sanani, Al-Toyan and late actor Mohammad Al-Ali.

This makes me recall renowned Egyptian playwright Ali Salem whom I had the honor of sharing this column with in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. 

Last wish 

I remember that when I visited him at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, he told me that his death wish was to lead a Saudi theatre team from Riyadh. He was apparently inspired by the experience of Egyptian actor Zaki Talimat in Kuwait. In the 1970s, Ali Salem had a good experience in the theatre with Saudi youths, including the famous media personality Dawood Al-Shirian.

In short, I know that the Saudi ministry of information is working to launch the work of the Saudi theatre in cooperation with the Al-Sanani. However, what I am talking about here is that there must be permanent and ambitious governmental support and sponsorship that only aims to meet the best global standards.

Cinema and theater have the same roots. They are knights on one track. I hope Salem’s wish for the theatre to make a comeback comes true. And more importantly, I hope Saudi art continues to develop and receive support.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.

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Last Update: Thursday, 14 December 2017 KSA 17:39 - GMT 14:39
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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