Saudi Arabia positions itself as a cinema player in Cannes

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The Saudi Film Council has cemented its place in the hub of the film industry in Cannes with a grand presence at its grand pavilion.

The campaign featured beautifully photographed guides to Saudi film locations, a book with data on the young, digitally savvy Saudi audience, Saudi Film Council–branded totes and Moleskine notebooks, and a small gold box of dates, a VanityFair.com report said.

Wrapping up events after a debut that was anticipated following the powerful decision to bring cinemas to Saudi Arabia, Ahmad al-Maziad, the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s General Culture Authority answered questions at a press conference. “We’re coming to build an industry. We’re not coming for a marketing campaign or a one-off hub of activity,” he said.

Al-Maziad added that his agency, the General Cultural Authority, and another group, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media, are conducting public surveys and reviewing social-media sentiment to determine how much change the Saudi public can handle.

Digital access

“There’s a lot of access to digital. So I think it’s been there, and it needed a leader to bring it up. As in any other society, you will have people who are happy with it, and you have people who have issues with it, and as society matures and adapts, we’ll see,” he said.

Al-Maziad added that 50 percent of the Authority’s scholarships for Saudis to study film at USC will go to women and that 54 percent of his new agency’s staff are women.

Saudi Arabia was present at Cannes Film Festival with a curated pavilion, industry panels for networking purposes and a selection of nine short films. The Kingdom’s newly established Saudi Film Council will launch its grand pavilion at the Cannes Marché du Film.