Short film on extremism wins at Saudi Film festival

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A short film that tackles extremism has won the top prize at the Saudi Film Festival, organizers said on Sunday.

“Departures”, directed by Abdulaziz al-Shalahei, won the golden palm award at the fourth edition of the festival, which featured 58 homegrown films including 12 directed by women.

“The film was made by a group of young people from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. We wanted to tackle the issue of extremism and its effects on our society,” Shalahei told Al Arabiya’s morning show Sabah Al Arabiya.

“Departures” features a conversation on a plane between an extremist thinking of blowing himself up and a terminally ill man who is tempted to commit suicide.

Saudi-based Syrian actor Mohammed al-Qass, who plays the role of the sick man, also won the prize for best actor.

“The festival is growing as the level of films is improving,” its director Ahmed al-Mulla said, adding that several contenders this year addressed extremism.

The festival, which concluded late on Saturday, included four competitions for fiction films, documentaries, student productions, and unproduced scripts.

The festival was held in a large marquee in Dhahran, in Eastern Province, as public cinemas do not exist in the Islamic kingdom.

“We hope that we will have cinemas soon,” Mulla said.

Saudi Arabia late last year began a cautious push to introduce entertainment.

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

(With inputs from AFP)