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With Ithra’s iconic building twinkling in the night sky, the 8th annual Saudi Film Festival ended on an unusually chilly Dhahran night.

Once again, as on the opening night of June 2, the red carpet took filmmakers and moviegoers to the cinema, where moviegoers had been rubbing shoulders for eight days. Much of the festival was streamed on YouTube and shared widely on the festival’s social media and hashtags.

Ahmed Al-Mulla, the director of the Saudi Film Festival, poetically concluded the closing speech with a standing ovation. A few speeches followed and, of course, there were the usual banter between actors Ibrahem Al-Hajjaj and actress Sarah Taibah, who were also the opening night presenters. They provided humor and a bit of context, as well as encouragement to everyone participating or attending the festival.

The big winner of the evening was ‘Quareer’, the ambitious anthology made up of five vignettes, each produced by a different woman as part of their graduation project. Each story in this masterpiece featured a realistic narrative about a Saudi woman or girl who lived in the Kingdom in more recent times – before many big changes for women’s empowerment were implemented. in the Kingdom. The five women – Ragheed Al-Nahdi, Norah Almowald, Ruba Khafagy, Fatma Alhazmi and Noor Alameer – broke the record by winning four prizes: for the best feature film, the best interpretation, the best cinematography and the jury prize. The women won the Palmes d’Or, which had a cash prize for each win.

Other awards include Best Documentary Short, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Produced Script. For a full list of winners, visit the SaudiFilmFestival website.

While it was a supportive environment, it was made clear by Al-Hajjaj and others on stage that the real winners were those who dared to dream of being involved in making films in the Kingdom. Just being in the Ithra Cinema, among these passionate creatives, is a testament to the willingness of many to go beyond the screen as passive viewers. Everyone, essentially, was a winner just by being there or choosing to engage with the festival.

One such person was Jeddah-based filmmaker Ismail Al-Bukhari. He participated in the Saudi Film Festival with a film he shot in New York during the pandemic. It took him two years to complete the English thriller because he insisted on doing every part of the film himself, from filming, directing and editing. He said the experience was “surreal” and he was just happy to be there.

“It’s really awesome to walk the red carpet for the first time – and in my home country – which I never imagined would happen in a million years. It’s also my world premiere for my first movie, ‘Resurrected.’ Lots of firsts – but hopefully it won’t be the last,” he told Arab News.