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Saudi Filmmaker Hakeem Jomah On The Country’s “Cinematic Identity” – Deadline

There’s perhaps no better representative of the trajectory of the many artists taking position at the front of Saudi Arabia’s nascent film industry than filmmaker Hakeem Jomah. 

“Academically, I’m a medical doctor, but once the art scene started to boom here in Saudi Arabia, I decided I wanted to jump ship and be a part of the front line of what I call a Saudi cinematic identity,” he told Deadline in our studio here at the Red Sea Film Festival. 

Jomah added that the “biggest excuse” filmmakers often touted in KSA before the government’s extensive investment in it’s cultural industries was that there wasn’t “much money” to get their projects over the line. 

“The government was like, ‘That excuse doesn’t fly,’ and they started funding films, be it the Saudi Cultural Fund or Film AlUla — there are so many avenues to get funding and your film made,” Jomah said. 

Jomah is best known for his directorial debut Kayan, an elevated horror pic, which debuted at Red Sea last year. This year, he’s in Jeddah for the premiere of Fever Dream. He stars in the film alongside local performers such as Sohayb Godus, Najm, Fatima Al-Banawi, and Nour Alkhadra. He places the film, which is backed by the Saudi cultural fund, firmly within what he described as the quickly evolving “Saudi cinematic identity.” 

“Saudi cinematic identity is just the culmination of all our voices. We were so used to more of an independent film scene with more experimental festival films. Now with there being a Saudi box office and box office films that grossed more than James Cameron’s film here or Scorsese films, we want to veer into more commercial films,” he said. 

“No matter what films we make, no matter what genre, it’s more about presenting it and seeing because we legitimately don’t know how a Saudi audience will receive a Saudi horror over an American horror or a Saudi romance over an American romance. That excitement of what we’re experiencing is that we don’t know.” 

Check out he video above. Red Sea Film Festival runs until Nov 9.

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