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.

Schism

Schism, fellow blogger Raed al-Saeed’s response to Geert Wilders’s Fitna has been making the rounds online with more than 130,000 views on YouTube and more than 1500 comments. I think I agree with Prometheus that the idea is good but the execution leaves much to be desired. Nevertheless, kudos to Raed for demonstrating how you can be positive and react rationally to opposing views instead of using violence and threats.

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UPDATE: Al-Watan daily came out yesterday with a ridiculous front page thing about the short film describing it as “provoking to Christians, rejected by Muslim.” They say any response to attacks on Islam should come from the so-called specialists: Sharia scholars blah blah blah. Obviously, terms like citizen journalism or user-generated content are so alien to the dead tree folks. They kept referring to Raed as “someone who claims to be Saudi” and none of those idiots bothered to check his blog or contact him despite the fact that his blog URL is clearly shown in the film, which means that they probably didn’t even watch the film in the first place. There are more stupidity in the article but I don’t have time for this crap.