Since its establishment in 2017, Ithra has been on a mission to elevate local Saudi talents to an international standard. According to Majid Zuhair Samman, head of Performing Arts & Cinema at Ithra, the centre seeks to empower filmmakers and help them achieve their ambitions.
Building on the success of movies produced by Ithra in film festivals and events worldwide, Ithra recently participated in the third edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) with several films.
Samman said that Ithra also granted a $50,000 prize at the Red Sea Souk Awards for the Best Saudi Film as part of its continued support to the film industry and filmmakers in Saudi Arabia.
Al Majalla spoke with Samman to discuss Ithra’s mission and projects and the promising prospects of the Saudi film industry.
What mission does Ithra’s Cinema Department aim to achieve?
Ithra has proudly been one of the biggest supporters of the Saudi film industry. We have produced over 23 Saudi films, many of which have received local and international awards.
Our primary role is to support Saudi filmmakers in producing their projects, offer quality initiatives to enhance cinematic content and showcase international films of high artistic value.
Tell us about Ithra’s participation in the third edition of the RSIFF with the film Hajjan?
Ithra presented its latest productions at the RSIFF, highlighting its innovative efforts in supporting local filmmakers and the burgeoning film industry in the Kingdom.
Our participation holds significant importance. Our first participation in the RSIFF was during the festival’s second edition when our film Valley Road was selected as the closing film. This year, the festival selected three films produced by Ithra: Hajjan, Hadi Al-Ess, and the documentary Khaled Al-Sheikh: Between the Thorns of Art and Politics.
Our feature film Hajjan, produced in collaboration with Film Clinic, had its regional premiere at the Arab Spectacular section of the RSIFF programme. It followed its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Discoveries programme last September to widespread critical acclaim.
Also, our short film Hadi Aleis was screened as part of the New Saudi/New Cinema section, after screening at the Sharjah International Film Festival in October and receiving a certificate of appreciation from the jury.
Lastly, the documentary film Khaled Al-Sheikh: Between the Thorns of Art and Politics, produced by Thmanyah with the support of Ithra, was screened at the festival as part of the Arabic Content Enrichment Programme.
Was “Hajjan” your first cooperation with the Film Clinic? Have you cooperated with other production companies?
Three years ago, when Ithra considered producing an international film, we aimed to collaborate with skilled Arab specialists who understood the state of Arab and Saudi cinema.
So we discussed the project with Film Clinic’s Mohamed Hefzy and reached an agreement on the team, actors, and story.
This marked our first collaboration with an Arab company to produce our films, but we also plan to work with other production companies.
Ithra has already produced 23 films. What have these movies achieved on the international stage?
Ithra’s primary objective is to showcase Saudi films and stories that deserve to be shared with the world and to highlight the significant growth of the Saudi film industry.
So far, Ithra's films have garnered over 24 international awards and have been featured in over 72 film festivals since 2016.
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