Saudi film festival scrubbed

Chris Forrester

Only a few months ago the plan to hold an annual – and high profile - festival for Arab filmmakers in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah was being hailed as a major step forward in the country’s liberalisation policy. But the festival, due to open on Saturday evening, was cancelled at the last minute.

The establishment of cinemas, and the festival, has been backed by Prince al Waleed bin Talal. Until late last year there were no cinemas in Saudi Arabia.

Some of Saudi Arabia’s more conservative voices see movies as violating a religious taboo, and as being inconsistent with the teachings of Islam. DVD piracy is widespread in Saudi Arabia. Cinemas have been banned for almost 30 years.

The festival would have been the 4th to have been held and plans were to feature about 100 Arabic films, including animations, documentaries and shorts as well as full-length movies, 45 of which were entered from Saudi Arabia.