Saudi’s Entertainment Industry: Films, Filmmakers, and Actresses to Watch This National Day

Even though cinemas have just been recently appearing in corners around the kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s entertainment industry has been booming long before. Needless to mention names like Haifaa al-Mansour, the kingdom’s first female director, who has made headlines in renowned global festivals at Cannes and Venice. There are several other films, filmmakers, and casts who have been equally impressive and deserve the same recognition and appreciation, especially on national day where we’re honoring everything Saudi-related. Horror, comedy, romance, you name it, Saudi Arabia’s got it – read on to know what and who your next favorites are going to be.

Saudi Films:

Wadjda

Stunning and important movie made to show a child’s perspective. Haifaa al-Mansour had to shoot this one from inside a van in Saudi Arabia. Described as a “world class piece of cinema” by movie critics, this feature is a must-watch.
 

Barakah Meets Barakah



A rom-com by Mahmoud Sabbagh to compliment your movie nights, this feature is heart-warming, hilarious, and gives viewers a peak into the societal works of different classes in a comical way.
 

The Perfect Candidate

Not being held by the gender limitations, a Saudi Arabian doctor paves the way for females in her small town by running for the local council. Haifaa al-Mansour strikes again with this beautiful family drama.
 

Amra and the Second Marriage



Another one by Mohmoud Sabbagh, where a middle-aged wife finds out her husband is about to take on another wife, a younger woman. The hype-real element found in this movie is what garnered it international acclaim.

Dunya’s Day

This social satire boasts of an all-female casts and tells the story of woman’s relentless pursuit of social status. It aims to portray the stereotypical side of an Arab woman, that is neither a victim or a saint. She’s fierce and she’s flawed – a beautiful rendition that deserves the attention.
 

Scales – Sayidat al Bahr

This feature got a Venice Film Festival debut, and rightfully so as its story is intriguing in its ambiguity and relevance. It’s a black and white movie about little girl who is supposed to be sacrificed to the sea, however she ultimately wages a war against the system and decides to pave her own way in life. Saudi filmmaker Shahd Ameen truly hits the chord with this one.


Roll’em

Abdulelah Alqurashi created a breathtaking feature with this storyline. As an ambitious filmmaker sets out to film a project about Jeddah, he stumbles upon other roads. He meets with a cinema aficionado living in a country that is yet to welcome movie theaters, and only then does he learn about the love he has for his city.

Saudi Filmmakers:

Haifaa Al Mansour

Saudi Arabia’s first female director, Haifaa al-Mansour has successfully made it on the local and global cinema scene. With a number of note-worthy films under her belt, al-Mansour never fails to continue the good fight for gender equal opportunities.

Shahad Ameen

A Saudi director that has made waves this year at the Venice Film Festival.  She has won many recognitions and awards for her features, including being nominated for “Best Short Film” at the Stockholm Film Festival.

Hind Al Fahhad

Hind Al-Fahhad is the director of the successful film Bastah, for which she won the Gulf Mahr award for in the Dubai Film Festival in 2015. She took part in the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2012 for directing Three Brides and a Kite.

Hanna Al Omair

Al-Omair also directed Bastah, receiver for the Gulf Mahr award for in the Dubai Film Festival in 2015. Her other films include, Complaint, which  received the Golden Palm Award at the 2015 Saudi Film Festival.

Mahmoud Sabbagh

This Saudi director, who grew up with cinema influences centering around works in the region, has had his movie, Barakah Meet Barakah, selected as the Saudi entry for the best foreign-language films at the 89th Oscars. He was also appointed to be the jury for the best first feature award at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.

Ali Kalthami

With a career spanning over 9 years, this Saudi director, producer, and writer is quite the mutli-talented filmmaker. Her directorial style leans towards dark comedies that tend to give critic on a certain aspect of society. Kalthami’s movie, Suwailem Al Talga, has received the Gold Award in the Dubai Lynx and the Lorez Award Ceremony.

Hakeem Jomah

This Saudi filmmaker originally was studying to be a medical actor, although he had acted in many films. When the filmmaker decided to travel to the USA to enroll in intensive acting lesson, he decided to go into directing. He made Madayen later, Saudi Arabia’s first psychological horror ghost story.
 

Safa Al Ahmad

Shying away from the cinematic features, this Saudi director has her heart on journalistic endeavors. She has directed documentaries for PBS and BBC that center around the Arab Spring. Al-Ahmad has won the 2015 index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Journalism, and was among the finalists for the 2014 Sony Impact Award.
 

Saudi Actors and Actresses:

Fatima Al Banawi

Al-Banawi is a multi-talented Sauid woman as actress is not only on her resume. The writer and perfomer artist founded The Other Story, a platform that derives inspirations for creative productions from real life people and stories.

Ahd Kamel

Best known for her role as Fatima in the BBC’s mini-series Collateral, the Jeddah native is also alumni from the New York Film Academy and has directed and acted in Award-nominated short films like The Shoemaker and Sanctity.

Aiysha Hart

Aiysha Hart is a British-Saudi actress and has been part of some of the highest grossing TV shows in the west including BBC drama Atlantis, police procedural TV series Line of Duty, and independent British film Honour. Still excelling in every role, Hart is set to appear in UK TV series, A Discovery of Witches and US film, Colette.

Dina Shihabi

Riyadh-born Dina Shihabi first emerged when she starred in American film Amira & Sam in 2014 and best known for her role as the protagonist in the film. After studying the performing arts in Dubai, she took her father’s permission to move to New York in 2007 to pursue acting, making it a full time career by 2010.

Waad Mohammed

The adorable girl from Wadjda, was discovered while performing in a talent show in the mall. Her stunning performance has gained her critical acclaim, and she is now considered a local public figure in her country. Mohammed uses her fame to support social causes.

Mila Al Zahrani

Meet Saudi newcomer, and the protaginist in Haifaa al-Mansour's The Perfect Candidate. The young Saudi actress Mila Alzahrani had already garnered attention as a boxing champion in the Saudi drama Boxing Girls, but her performance in Al-Mansour’s newest film has a global spotlight shining on her.

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