The ninth Saudi Film Festival will kick off on Thursday at Ithra in Dhahran and will run until May 11.

Organized by the Cinema Association and in partnership with Ithra, the festival is supported by the Saudi Film Commission and sponsored by the Red Sea International Film Festival.

It is being held under the theme “The Comedy,” with 78 films on display within 48 screening groups, and four groups for children.

Ahmed Al-Mulla, director of the Saudi Film Festival, said: “The extended partnership between the Cinema Association and Ithra which began in 2015 is only part of the role represented by the two sides in empowering filmmakers and cinematic talents by providing all aspects of support to them.” Al-Mulla also praised the Saudi Film Commission for its continuous support and motivation of Saudi filmmakers.

He added that comedy was selected as the main axis for the festival to shed light on a genre that sparks surprise and laughter, with aesthetic symbolism and meaningful connotations.

The festival will open with an animated short film for the first time. The opening film, “Saleeg,” was created by Saudi filmmaker Afnan Bawyan.

“I did not expect to see ‘Saleeg’ selected for the festival opening, I just wanted my film to be showcased to the public in Saudi Arabia. I feel content yet there is some tension at the same time because the responsibility is big.” “Saleeg” is 9 minutes and 39 seconds long, and was produced in 2022 using various puppetry techniques. The title was filmed in Amsterdam at 5 A.M. Studios, a stop-motion animation studio. The name of the movie is inspired by the traditional Saudi dish from Taif in the Makkah region.

The festival will also offer eight films through virtual reality devices for the first time. Over eight days, the festival will provide a series of cultural seminars and training workshops accompanied by book signings, leading to the awards ceremony. Stars who left a great influence on the history of cinematic arts in the Kingdom and Gulf will be honored. There will be also a production market that will provide a platform for production companies, producers and filmmakers to support competitor projects as well as exchange experience.