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‘Norah’: A Saudi Cinematic Triumph at Cannes

For the first time in its history, a Saudi Arabian film has secured a spot in the official selection of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, marking a significant milestone in the Kingdom's cinematic journey. The selected film, titled "Norah," directed by Tawfik Alzaidi, captures the essence of 1990s Saudi Arabia, a time overshadowed by conservatism and the suppression of artistic expression. Set against the backdrop of AlUla, the narrative centers around Nader, portrayed by Yaqoub Alfarhan, a disillusioned artist turned schoolteacher, who mentors the titular character, Norah, played by Maria Bahrawi, in nurturing her artistic talent within the constraints of a repressive rural environment.

Having premiered at the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah in December, "Norah" garnered acclaim and now joins the esteemed ranks of the Cannes Film Festival's "Un Certain Regard" section, known for its celebration of innovative storytelling and emerging talent. Among 19 other international contenders, the film stands as a testament to Saudi Arabia's evolving film industry and its commitment to promoting a variety of stories on the international scene.

Director Tawfik Alzaidi envisions "Norah" as more than a mere cinematic tale but as a source of inspiration for future generations, urging viewers to persevere in the face of adversity and to champion their dreams relentlessly. Similarly, Maria Bahrawi, reflecting on her portrayal of Norah, emphasizes the character's resilience and determination, drawing parallels to her own journey of self-discovery and empowerment. With her determination to conquer challenges and forge her route to success, Norah personifies the values of self-belief and steadfast resolve throughout her journey.

Since the lifting of the cinema ban in 2017, Saudi Arabia has witnessed a flourishing film scene, establishing a growing connection with the Cannes Film Festival since its first attendance in 2018. As the 2024 festival approaches, scheduled from May 14 to May 25, "Norah" stands poised to showcase Saudi Arabia's rich cinematic heritage and its vibrant tapestry of storytelling to audiences worldwide, affirming its place in the global film landscape.

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