December 27, 2008

DIDN'T MISS MUCH:

Saudis see cinema after 30 yrs (AFP, 27 Dec 2008)

They howled, clapped and ate popcorn -- a normal cinema scene elsewhere, but revolutionary in Saudi Arabia where films have not played publicly for decades. Massive lines snaked out from the King Abdul Aziz Cultural Centre as Jeddah residents queued up to see the first feature film open to the public for 30 years, hoping the event heralded a big change in the ultra-conservative kingdom's cultural scene.

In what took hush-hush negotiations with senior political officials and the strict religious police, the Red Sea port of Jeddah and the nearby city of Taif allowed the Rotana entertainment group, owned by powerful Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, to show its new comedy "Manahi" for nine days. "The hall was filled up till the very last seat during the two shows scheduled each day, forcing us to add a third show after midnight,” said organizer Mamdouh Salem .

Decades ago film lovers in Saudi Arabia would crowd into clubs and halls to watch the same movies enjoyed throughout the Arab world. But in the 1970s, clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabist version of Islam cracked down and banned cinemas as having a corrupting influence on society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2008 7:40 AM
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