Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

top
Capital News

World

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on public cinemas

Saudi women attend a rare cinema screening at a film festival in Riyadh in October 2017. Saudi Arabia on Monday announced a lifting of the kingdom’s decades-long ban on cinemas © AFP/File / FAYEZ NURELDINE

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dec 11 – Saudi Arabia on Monday lifted a decades-long ban on cinemas, part of a series of social reforms by the powerful crown prince that are shaking up the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The government said it would begin licensing cinemas immediately and the first movie theatres are expected to open next March, in a decision that could boost the kingdom’s nascent film industry.

Reviving cinemas would represent a paradigm shift in the kingdom, which is promoting entertainment as part of a sweeping reform plan for a post-oil era, despite opposition from conservatives who have long vilified movie theatres as vulgar and sinful.

“Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the Kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years,” the culture and information ministry said in a statement.

“This marks a watershed moment in the development of the cultural economy in the kingdom,” the statement quoted Information Minister Awwad Alawwad as saying.

Like most public spaces in the kingdom, cinema halls are expected to be segregated by gender or have a separate section for families.

Hardliners, who see cinemas as a threat to cultural and religious identity, were instrumental in shutting them down in the 1980s.

Saudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric warned in January of the “depravity” of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals.

But authorities appear to be shrugging off the threat, with some comparing Saudi Arabia’s reform drive to a fast-moving bus — either people get on board or risk being left behind.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

– ‘Open, moderate Islam’ –

Saudi Arabia in recent months has organised music concerts, a Comic-Con pop culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.

Saudis themselves appear quietly astounded by the torrid pace of change — including the historic decision allowing women to drive from next June.

The social transformation chimes with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent pledge to return Saudi Arabia to an “open, moderate Islam” and destroy extremist ideologies.

Saudi filmmakers have long argued that a ban on cinemas does not make sense in the age of YouTube.

Saudi films have been making waves abroad, using the internet to circumvent distribution channels and sometimes the stern gaze of state censors.

“It is a beautiful day in #SaudiArabia! Saudi Arabia says cinemas to get licenses in early 2018,” Saudi female director Haifaa al-Mansour wrote on Twitter.

Her film “Wadjda” made history in 2013 after it became Saudi Arabia’s first Academy Award entry.

The film depicts the dream of a 10-year-old girl to get a bicycle just like the boys in her conservative neighbourhood.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

This year, the country is again vying for an Oscar with the film “Barakah Meets Barakah”, the kingdom’s first romantic comedy which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.

“Now our young men and women will show the world possibilities and stories worth seeing,” Saudi filmmaker Aymen Tarek Jamal said on Twitter.

“Congratulations to the 2030 Generation.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

You May Also Like

Kenya

Mwitiki became famous during the January 15-16 DusitD2 attack, after his picture and that of Starehe politician Steve Mbogo holding sophisticated firearms went viral.

Corona Virus

NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 11 – China has now come out to help nations affected by coronavirus, after managing the crisis at home. On Wednesday,...

Capital Health

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 13 – Kenya has confirmed the first case of coronavirus which the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic on...

BBI

NYERI, Mar 10 – Mathira legislator Rigathi Gachagua Tuesday claimed unnamed people in government had deployed State machinery to propel former Prime Minister Raila Odinga...