Saudis voice their disapproval of cinemas
RIYADH: After 30 years, the first movie show to be screened here triggered a minor incident with some Saudis using the platform to voice their disapproval of cinemas.

"Menahi," the second Saudi film produced by Rotana, was screened on Saturday night at the King Fahd Cultural Center (KFCC) theater. This was the fourth screening of the movie after it was shown in Jeddah, Taif and Jazan.

The film was shown in Riyadh following approval from the municipality, the Ministry of Culture and Information, and the Ministry of Social Affairs; income generated was to be donated to support cancer patients.

While young activists on Facebook started a campaign calling for opening of cinemas in the Kingdom, 15 people aged 30 to 40 attempted to disrupt the film's showing at KFCC, by trying to persuade moviegoers to leave in order to close down the show.

Their attempts created a brief flutter as the 15 zealots scolded the audience in loud voices and cursed Fayz Al-Malki, the main actor, while accusing him of spreading vice.

"They do not represent Islam, have no official standing and cannot be considered guardians of virtue. Therefore, they have no real influence," Al-Malki told Arab News, adding that it was a historical evening and a boost for Rotana and Saudi filmmaking.
"Going to the movies is not required. Therefore it is forbidden!"
"This form of interference, although we did obtain prior official approval to show the film, is not the essence of Islam. It is more of an individual act and is not a proper way to project righteous things," said Al-Malki while commending the authority's interference in arresting the intruders.

Hours before screening the film, Al-Maliki received several phone calls and SMS messages, saying he would get cancer as well as God's wrath for playing the lead role in the film. The messages also called for immediate action to stop the screening.

A statement from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said the intruders were not commission members and the commission did not have any role in the disruption.

Meanwhile, Hassan Al-Asiri, a Saudi actor and producer who co-starred with Al-Malki, said it is essential to have a dialogue with those who reject movie-making and its screening.

"The initiative to show a Saudi film is a great one and historical. Filmmaking is not a luxury anymore, but rather a necessity that can be exploited to spread virtue and principles, and it should be well organized," Al-Asiri said, adding that people should understand that the group's rejection of films comes from its belief that they are guarding society's scruples.

"They are afraid of the unknown, their beliefs are genuine as ours are, therefore we should open channels of communication with them, understand their fears and give them assurances," Al-Asiri said, adding that the Ministry of Culture and Information should take the initiative to open cinemas according to a plan.

Al-Asiri recommends a 20-year-plan, which includes opening theaters that only show for the first 10 years Saudi films. He added that the following seven years should be for films from the Gulf countries and the last three years for other Arab films.

Al-Asiri believes that cinemas would help improve and enhance Saudi filmmaking, reflect real Saudi society and help in providing solutions to problems.

"The theater will also give the young a media that is easier to control than the TV, where 18 million Saudis are watching with no control or censorship," Al-Asiri argued.

Al-Malki said the night was a success for Saudi films, adding he is looking forward to more shows. As for his next film, Al-Malki told Arab News that although the script is ready, there is a small conflict between himself and Rotana. He did not elaborate but said he hopes it will be settled soon.
Posted by: Classer 2009-06-08