DIFF Daily 2010

Female Arabian icons cross over to attend DIFF panel

Dec 16,2010 - 11:57 AM

Saudi Arabia may not have any movie theatres to speak of but it is still the largest distribution market for films in the entire Gulf region.

That was the claim from Ahd Kamel, a Jeddah-based producer, director and actress, speaking earlier this week on a panel in which she was joined by some of the biggest female acting talents from the Arab world.

The reason so many films get seen in Saudi Arabia - where the only movie-houses are said to be informal theatres housed within foreign compounds – is because so many of the country’s citizens download them from websites. Without paying for them.

‘Part of the challenge is how to go around piracy. Every platform has its challenges. But it's a rapid market and we should definitely tap into it,”’said Kamel. Although her wish is for theatres to come back to Saudi Arabia, and the creation of a traditional cinema market, Kamel’s immediate strategy is to enter the online market as it is growing and thriving.

The Saudi film market was one of several topics included in a wide-ranging discussion that revolved around the issues faced by Arab actresses who are attempting to ‘cross over’ into the international market.

The actresses believe the role of Arab film is to tell the world honest accounts of Arab society. As such, their focus is on being culturally specific, while opening the door to wider global exposure.

‘We face the same problems. We try to serve our countries and be part of the world economically, politically and socially,’ Syrian television star Marh Jabr said. And Egyptian film icon Lebleba said that while crossing over is important, Arab film ‘cannot imitate something done elsewhere. We need to focus on the theme and technicality of our productions.’

Lebleba explained that what draws her to cinema is its creativity and grandeur. She has demonstrated her love and loyalty for cinema by strictly involving herself with cinematic productions since her career began at age five.

Jabr offered a contrasting view on television in the Arab world. ‘Television presents ideas that convey a message, and cinema does the same but more dramatically,’ she said. The actress explained that the fast-developing Arab television sector shows cover a range of social issues prevalent in the region, making the small screen an integral part of the society – perhaps more so than cinema itself.

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