Saudi Arabia: Hosts film festival despite cinema ban

Saudi Arabia is rolling out the red carpet on Friday for its second film festival in seven years, but the deeply conservative country has one major problem – cinemas are banned.

More than 60 short films will compete for the Golden Palm Tree trophies crowning best drama, documentary and student film categories at a gala event attended by film and television celebrities from around the Arab world, festival director Ahmed al-Mulla said.

The kingdom practises an austere version of Islam that does not permit conventional entertainment venues such as cinemas so screenings will take place in an arts centre in the Gulf coast city of Dammam.

Organisers said they hope the five-day festival will open eyes in Saudi Arabia to the possibilities of film despite objections from some conservatives that cinema will “Westernise” the kingdom or corrupt its morals.


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