DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia, April 3, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – A short film that tackles extremism has won the top prize at the Saudi Film Festival, organisers said Sunday, in an ultra-conservative kingdom that continues to ban public cinemas.
“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 festival is growing as the level of films is improving,” its director Ahmed al-Mulla said, adding that several contenders this year addressed extremism.
“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, which concluded late 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, despite opposition from Muslim hardliners.
Other events on offer for Saudi spectators have been the New York theatrical group iLuminate, the Comic-Con pop culture festival, and WWE wrestling.