Art Jameel announces opening of Hayy Cinema, Saudi Arabia’s first independent cinema

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Art Jameel, the independent organization that supports artists and nurtures creative communities, opens Hayy Cinema in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to the public from December 6, 2022.

Hayy Cinema expands the definition of cinema as a meeting point to watch, learn, exchange, discover and research. The complex includes a 168-seat theatre, a 30-seat community screening room, a multimedia library and an educational exhibition space.

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Imagined as a year-round home for the Saudi film community and local cine-enthusiasts, the permanent, two-floor space at Hayy Jameel is designed by Jeddah-based architectural practice Bricklab, whose design won an international architectural competition run by Art Jameel in 2019, and is based on the extensive research into the history of cinema in the Gulf, and interviews with Saudi and regional actors, directors and producers.

Hayy Cinema's year-round programming will include Saudi, Arab and international features, shorts, and documentaries and is set to host flagship film festivals for all –- from children through to country- and genre-specific audiences.

Indicative of the collaborative nature of Hayy Cinema, the opening program is co-developed with the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) and celebrates visionaries of Arab cinema’s golden era, including a retrospective from December 6-23, 2022, of five newly restored, groundbreaking films by Egyptian master Youssef Chahine – one of the Arab world's most internationally celebrated filmmakers.

Recently restored and digitized by Misr International Film (MIF), and screening anew to the public at Hayy Cinema, the films span from the 1970s through to the late 80s, revealing Chahine’s sensitive approach to filmmaking, in which social and personal dynamics play out in poetic complexity.

Alongside the retrospective is a thoroughly-researched and rare archival exhibition from December 6,2022, to March 25, 2023, that highlights renowned photographer Gamal Fahmy’s contribution to the revolutionary force of filmmaking in the region. Curated by Art Jameel from the Red Sea International Film Foundation Archives Collection, the exhibition features never-before-seen photographs, a collection of personal items, vintage cameras and various ephemera.

The opening program is co-curated by Hayy Cinema Senior Manager Zohra Ait El Jamar with Jeddah-based writer and director Yaser Hammad, and in collaboration with Red Sea International Film Festival.

Antonia Carver, Director, Art Jameel, said: “There is no better way to celebrate Hayy Jameel’s first anniversary than with the launch of the much-anticipated Hayy Cinema. This is Saudi’s first bespoke independent picturehouse, developed with the intent to nurture the local film scene –- not only filmmakers, but also the audiences who appreciate them. Via a year-round program of films from Saudi, the region and the world, as well as talks, exhibitions, and film festivals held across its various community spaces, the cinema becomes a convivial site of convening, opening up a whole new world of storytelling and imagination.”

“We believe that Hayy Cinema’s focus on presenting and documenting the great breadth of global cinema, and in tracing the history of cinemas and films from the Gulf, complements the blockbusters of Saudi's fast-growing commercial scene and government-led industry initiatives. With Hayy Arts being a museum space for the visual arts and Hayy Cinema for the moving image, both anchor Hayy Jameel, grounding the complex as Jeddah’s home for creative expression,” Carver added.

Zohra Ait El Jamar, Hayy Cinema Senior Manager, said: “The opening of Hayy Cinema in Jeddah captures a moment of increasing passion and support for local and global cinema in Saudi. The collaboration with Red Sea International Film Festival for the opening program of Hayy Cinema speaks to the ethos of Art Jameel: our model has long been dynamic and adaptive, working with many partnering institutions to build programming collaborations anchored in the specific context of our creative community’s needs and aspirations. I thank the team of Red Sea International Film Festival and look forward to continuing to work with the festival and the Saudi film community to build ever-greater appreciation for cinema across the Kingdom.”

Read more: Sharjah Art Foundation unveils inaugural season of five performances across Emirate

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