First Saudi independent cinema set to open in Jeddah


Art Jameel has announced that the first Saudi independent cinema will open on Dec. 6, coinciding with the second Red Sea International Film Festival. It said Hayy Cinema, in Jeddah’s Hayy Jameel, aims to expand the cinema experience by serving as a meeting point to watch, discover, research and learn about films, and exchange knowledge.

It features a 168-seat main theater, a 30-seat community screening room, a multimedia library and an educational exhibition space.

The cinema’s founders said it will celebrate the legends of the golden age of Arab cinema, and early screening highlights include a retrospective of five newly restored versions of groundbreaking films by Egyptian master Youssef Chahine, one of the Arab world’s most internationally acclaimed filmmakers.

It will also present an exhibition highlighting the contribution of renowned photographer Gamal Fahmy to the revolutionary force of filmmaking in the region.

“This is Saudi’s first bespoke independent picture house, developed to nurture the local film scene — not only filmmakers but also the audiences who appreciate them,” said Antonia Carver, the director of Art Jameel.

“Via a year-round program of films from Saudi, the region and the world, as well as talks, exhibitions and film festivals held across its various community spaces, the cinema becomes a convivial site of convening, opening up a whole new world of storytelling and imagination.

“We believe that Hayy Cinema’s focus on presenting and documenting the great breadth of global cinema, and in tracing the history of cinemas and films from the Gulf, complements the blockbusters of Saudi’s fast-growing commercial scene and government-led industry initiatives.”

The founders said that through carefully curated retrospectives and archival exhibitions, the cinema invites audiences to discover important films and learn more about the historical influence the independent film industry has had on social and political trends.

Its opening schedule includes five groundbreaking films by Chahine: “Alexandria… Why?” (“Iskindereya… Leh,” 1978); “Alexandria Again And Forever” (“Iskendereya Kaman we Kaman,” 1989); “Adieu Bonaparte” (“Al-Wedaa Ya Bonaparte,” 1985); “The Sixth Day” (“Al-Yom El-Sades,” 1986); and “Return Of The Prodigal Son” (“Awdet El-Ibn El-Dal,” 1976).

Zohra Ait El-Jamar, senior manager of Hayy Cinema, said: “The opening of Hayy Cinema in Jeddah captures a moment of increasing passion and support for local and global cinema in Saudi.

“The collaboration with RSIFF for the opening program of Hayy Cinema speaks to the ethos of Art Jameel: Our model has long been dynamic and adaptive, working with many partnering institutions to build programming collaborations anchored in the specific context of our creative community’s needs and aspirations.

“I thank the team at RSIFF and look forward to continuing to work with the festival and the Saudi film community to build ever-greater appreciation for cinema across the Kingdom.”

The cinema’s opening day also marks the first anniversary of Hayy Jameel, a dedicated complex for the arts and creativity in Jeddah that is one of two Art Jameel institutions.

Art Jameel works to support artists and nurture creative communities. Founded and supported by the Jameel family philanthropies, it describes its programs, commissions, research, learning initiatives and community buildings as being grounded in a dynamic understanding of the arts as being fundamental to life and accessible to all.

The cinema’s opening program marks the second collaboration between Art Jameel and RSIFF; in December last year, Hayy Jameel hosted “Red Sea: Immersive,” a selection of what it described as significant and era-defining virtual reality projects curated by Liz Rosenthal.

The second RSIFF begins today in Jeddah and continues until Dec. 10. Its program includes 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, including seven features and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia.