Saudi film festival cancelled in setback for reformers

Sat Jul 18, 2009 1:28pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Souhail Karam and Asma Alsharif

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's only film festival has been canceled, dealing a blow to reformist hopes of an easing of clerical control over culture that had been raised by the low-key return of cinemas in December.

In a country where movie theatres had been banned for almost three decades, the Jeddah Film Festival presents aspiring Saudi film makers and actors with a rare opportunity to mingle with more experienced peers from other countries.

"Late last night, the governorate of Jeddah notified us of the festival's cancellation, after it received instructions from official parties. We were not told why," Mamdouh Salem, one of the festival's organizers, said Saturday.

He did not elaborate.

Saudi writer Abdullah Al-Alami said he was not sure why the fourth Jeddah festival, expected to start in the Islamic kingdom's most liberal city Saturday, was canceled.

"However, there is a trend of attacking cultural festivities ... This is a dark day for art and literature in our modern history," he said.

King Abdullah has tried cautious reforms in the U.S. ally, which has no elected parliament, but diplomats say he is facing resistance from conservatives opposing changes.

Many religious conservatives in the kingdom believe films from more liberal Arab countries such as Egypt could violate religious taboos. Some also view cinema and acting, as a form of dissembling, as inconsistent with Islam.   Continued...