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Major plot twist at first Saudi cinema school

Cinema is one of several new avenues for Saudi women

Image Credit: Reuters
Saudi women study film making at a university in Jeddah last week.
Gulf News

Jeddah: Student Sama Kinsara adjusts her camera at Saudi Arabia’s only cinema school, her dream of seeing her work on the big screen coming into focus after the lifting of the country’s 35-year ban on cinema.

“Everything is about to change,” the first-year student of “visual and digital production” at Effat University in Jeddah told Reuters.

cinemas planned to be opened in Saudi Arabia by authorities

Her course is to be renamed “cinematic arts”, dropping the deceptive title employed originally to help stay under the radar of religious police and local communities opposed to the idea of men teaching women how to make movies.

expected to be added to the economy by the entertainment industry

Kinsara and her classmates on the four-year, women-only course have been able to film outside the university grounds for the first time.

“A girl carrying a camera and shooting in the streets is pushing boundaries,” said Mohammad Ghazala, head of Effat’s Visual and Digital Production Department, which began the course in 2013.

The changes follow the lifting of restrictions by reform-minded Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman over the last year.

Authorities hope that by opening 300 cinemas and building a film industry, more than $24 billion can be added to the economy and 30,000 jobs created.

Cinema is one of several new avenues for Saudi women, who can now attend football matches, take part in sport, and in a few months will be allowed to drive cars.

For film student Qurratulain Waheb, the chance to get off the university campus and film with her classmates is welcomed.

“Before, there was a problem if we had a camera in the malls, we were not allowed to enter the malls but things are getting smoother now when we have access,” she said. “When we have permissions it gets easier, it gets better and people are more accepting. They want to see what we’re doing.”