Saudi Art Days Highlights the Potential of the Saudi Entertainment Industry

Courtesy of Saudi Art Days
Josh Welsh, Mohamed Al Salman, Shahad Ameen, Andy Tennant

The three-day event put on by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia coincides with crown prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to Los Angeles.

On Monday night, while crown prince Mohammed bin Salman dined with Rupert Murdoch, Bob Iger and Dwayne Johnson, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia kicked off a Saudi Art Days, a three-day event that is meant to introduce Los Angels to the burgeoning Saudi entertainment industry.  

Taking place at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater, the events coincides with prince's visit to Los Angeles, a stop on his three-week tour of the U.S.

The first night of Saudi Art Days included a discussion with two Saudi directors, Mohamed Al Salman and Shahad Ameen, that was moderated by Film Independent president Josh Welsh.

To kick things off Welsh spoke about his recent trip with Film Independent to Saudi Arabia: "It was our first trip over there and it was really remarkable. It feels like their are significant changes over there coming to the film and TV and cultural landscape." 

This past year Film Independent added Saudi Arabia to the list of eligible countries allowed to participate in the nonprofit's Global Media Makers program, which connects amateur filmmakers with mentors in the U.S. entertainment industry. (Other countries involved are Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.)

Welsh asked the young directors their thoughts on the country's end to the 35-year ban on cinemas, and the possibility of a Saudi film industry.

"Since film went to digital, [Saudi] filmmakers didn't wait for the market to open," said Salman. "Now, we are even more ready. When the market opens, it will be a drive for us to produce our film with budgets."

"For the past 10 years we have been making our films and showing them in international festivals and local festivals but we were never able to show it in Saudi," noted Ameen. "It is a great feeling showing your film in your county, the audience response different than any other place." 

Salman added,"Now we are waiting like anyone else to see how the audience reacts."