Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning filmmakers have formed a trade organisation called Film Association in an effort to hold sway in regulations being laid out for the country’s booming film industry.
The Saudi Film Association, announced during the ongoing Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah, comes five years after the government removed its 35-year-old religion-related ban on cinemas. Since then, Saudi Arabia has built studios, formed film commissions and launched tax incentives for production.
The Saudi Film Association initiative is being led by Saudi Culture Minister Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, who is known to be a film buff.
Presiding over the trade organization is prominent Saudi actor Mishal Al Mutairi, known for his roles in the TV series “Yawmeyat Wadah” (“Wadah’s Diaries”) and “Al Aramela” (“The Widows”). Board members include producer Alaa Faden, founding member and the CEO of leading indie studio Telfaz 11; writer and director Hanaa Al Omair whose 2020 thriller series “Whispers” was Saudi Arabia’s first TV drama to launch on Netflix; pioneering director Tawfiq Al Zaidi, whose drama “Norah” is in competition at Red Sea; beloved actor Abdulmohsen Al-Nimr whose most recent film is high-end camel racing drama “Hajjan,” also at Red Sea; and Abdulaziz Al Muzaini, director of animated hit “Masameer” and co-founder and CEO of Myrkott animation studio. Given that the emerging Saudi film industry still lacks some fundamental regulations when it comes to matters such as IP ownership, writer and talent credits and residual rights, one of the association’s most pressing matters is “to [help] establish laws and legislation to protect all parties and platforms,” Al Muzaini said in a statement.
Faden noted that the Saudi Film Association will be key for Saudi content creators going forward in terms of “unifying” contractual agreements when it comes to various types of rights, and underlined the need for “an association with global standards that represents the [industry] workers and seeks their rights” in order to bridge the gap between the local industry and global unions.