First Saudi Film Festival

Guest blogger Lubna Hussain is currently in France enjoying the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival. Meanwhile, the first film festival in Saudi Arabia started last Tuesday in Dammam. The Associated Press reports, “It’s a far cry from the glamour of Cannes: No celebrities strutting their stuff; an all-male audience drinking coffee and juice rather than champagne; and if any female spectators showed up – well, no one knew. They came in through a back entrance into a separate hall, off-limits to the male organizers.”

Still, I think it is good to see the event takes place. I really wanted to attend some of the films there over the weekend, but unfortunately I’m stuck here in Riyadh for another week or so. The AP report carried this paragraph that made me feel like laughing and crying at the same time:

Information Minister Eyad Madani attended the festival Tuesday, giving the competition an unequivocal stamp of official approval. “There’s a debate over the issue of cinema and movies, and it’s a debate that should continue,” said Madani in a brief speech.

What debate the minister is talking about? The stupid debate over opening up cinema theaters in the country, like the debate over women’s driving, has gone way longer than it should. The government should step up and show its citizens and the world that they are not to be held back by a group of backward lunatics who, if it was up to them, would like to take us back to the Middle Ages. It is about time.