The winners, selected from over 85 finalists, will create short films following workshop sessions in AlUla.
Alfasi, Maram Taibah and sisters Raneem and Dana Almohandes were announed as winners of the inaugural AlUla Creates: Film Programme, a platform designed to nurture creativity and empower future generations in film.
The winners were unanimously chosen by a selection committee composed of Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour (The Perfect Candidate, Wadjda), James Richardson and Jane Moore of Vertigo Films (Monsters, Britannia, Bronson) and Roua Almadani of Film AlUla, the Royal Commission for AlUla’s film agency.
Film AlUla and the selection committee made their choice following a stringent evaluation of 85 submissions from Saudi women filmmakers. The concept submissions for a 10-minute short film were assessed on their originality, creativity, thematic depth, character development and potential to engage and captivate audiences.
The winning submissions were chosen for their strong, innovative storylines, experimental treatment and robust direction. Featuring universal themes set against the cultural milieu of Saudi Arabia, the winning submissions pushed boundaries in subject matter and approach. Hana Alfasi’s social commentary on mental health; Raneem and Dana Almohandes’ live-action musical about human identity; and Maram Taibah’s tale of female empowerment and independence steeped in magical realism, offered refreshing takes on issues at the heart of the human experience through innovative techniques.
Speaking on the occasion, Charlene Deleon-Jones, Executive Director, Film AlUla said: “A new generation of talent is on the rise in Saudi Arabia; they have the drive, perspective and potential to take the Saudi industry to the global level. AlUla Creates, as a programme, facilitates that. By bringing together established talent with emerging Saudi filmmakers, we are enabling an exchange of experiences and knowledge. It is a two- way process of learning that will have a long-lasting impact on the trajectories of these filmmaker’s careers. By anchoring our programme in AlUla, we are setting their creative discussions in a place of inspiration and connection.”
The first phase of the mentorship commenced with a series of workshops in AlUla, helmed by mentors Haifaa Al Mansour, James Richardson and Jane Moore, to help the young filmmakers further develop their concepts into a 10-minute short film, aided by grants of $20,000 each from Film AlUla. They will also be working with Saudi fashion desigers Alia and Abeer Olaif of Atelier Hekayat, and Arwa Al Ammari of ArAm, who were selected as part of the first phase to design and create costumes that bring their stories to life.
Mentor and Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour said: “Spending the past week with the extremely talented winning filmmakers of the AlUla Creates: Film Programme has been insightful and rewarding. Since I started my career, we have witnessed a massive shift, and I have seen the Saudi film industry opening up and flourishing. As it continues to grow, it’s important to provide opportunities and guidance for local creatives to carve out their career on their own terms. The support, whether that is practical guidance, networking, or bouncing ideas around, alongside the valuable financial support from Film AlUla, will hopefully enable the filmmakers to not only create beautiful short films that can be showcased on an international platform, but also gain invaluable insights into the film industry and how productions from across the globe operate.”
James Richardson and Jane Moore, Vertigo Films, added: “Through the judging process we have had a front row seat to the incredible talent of up-and-coming Saudi filmmakers. We had some extremely difficult decisions to make, but the winning filmmakers all blew us away with the ambition and quality of their storytelling. Working with the filmmakers this week, against the breathtaking backdrop of AlUla, has inspired everyone and we look forward to continuing to support them through the development and production process.”
The filmmakers will also be flown to London to learn about the international marketplace, meeting with
key sales, distribution, post and VFX companies, with each of the filmmakers also being supported through submissions to local and international film festivals.
The AlUla Creates: Film Programme is part of ‘AlUla Creates’ – a year-round initiative that will allow new women filmmakers and creatives to collaborate with leading industry professionals and access development funds to create and share their stories with the world. The first phase of the programme was rolled out alongside the 95th Academy Awards® with a focus on fashion. Ambassadors Mila Al Zahrani, Helena Christensen and Eva Herzigova partnered with Saudi female fashion designers – the sister duo Alia and Abeer Olaif of Atelier Hekayat, and Arwa Al Ammari of ArAm – to design bespoke looks, supported by British fashion designer Emilia Wickstead, for The Oscars® Vanity Fair red carpet in Los Angeles as well as Cannes Film Festival. The three ambassadors will continue working with AlUla Creates, supporting emerging female creative talent from the region and forming an integral part of the initiative’s future plans.