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‘We are going to be one of the biggest film markets,’ Saudi producer Aymen Khoja says


CANNES: Saudi Arabia’s nascent movie trade is already making waves on the worldwide scene. While Egypt remains to be the undisputed middle of regional cinema, the Kingdom’s goal is finally to compete for that title — and extra.

“We have the stories, and the foundation that we have is very strong: The culture, the talent, the theaters — everything is there,” award-winning Saudi movie producer and director Aymen Khoja instructed Arab News at this 12 months’s Cannes Film Festival. “Once everything is aligned, we are going to go far.”

Khoja studied on the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles and has labored within the movie trade for greater than a decade, directing movies for MBC Studios, VIU, Amazon Prime, and plenty of extra.

His mission, he says, is to convey genuine native tales to life on a world scale.

Aymen with CEO of Saudi Film Commission Abdullah Al-Ayaf in Cannes 2022, Saudi Pavilion. (Supplied)

He has had some success in that regard already, as producer of Hamzah Jamjoom’s “Rupture,” a psychological thriller with a world solid which received the Best Saudi Film award finally 12 months’s inaugural Red Sea Film Festival.

“Our culture and our traditions are different from any other region, even other neighboring countries. We have a lot of diversity and I think people are curious, Egyptians, my friends, Moroccans, and the world want to know about us,” Khoja instructed Arab News at Cannes final month, shortly after he took half within the March Du Film Conference discussing the state of Arabian cinema. “It’s been 70 years, 80 years, and no one knew anything about us. (Foreign filmmakers) have been telling stories about us, but we never spoke. Today we are speaking and I think that’s very exciting.”

With help for the trade coming from Saudi Vision 2030, the Saudi Film Commission, the Red Sea Film Festival, and Ithra, amongst others, many Saudi abilities have began to pursue their ambitions of sharing Saudi tradition on the massive display. And Khoja is bullish about their prospects.

Aymen with the star Billy Zane throughout filming Rupture in Romania, Nov. 24, 2020. (Supplied)

“We are going to be one of the biggest film markets in the world, maybe top three. I think we’re going to be there,” he stated. “There are more than 400 million people in the Arab region — we can have them watching our (movies).”

Khoja has launched his personal manufacturing firm within the hope of selling the expansion of the Kingdom’s movie trade.

“I admire the entire firms I’ve labored with up to now and I’ve discovered quite a bit, however after ‘Rupture’ received the award, I made a decision that it was time.

There is a niche in Saudi cinema — particularly in Saudi-produced movies — and I’m right here to fill that hole. I would like my firm to be the pleasure of Saudi cinema sooner or later, specializing in the standard of Saudi content material,” he stated.

Khoja defined that he hopes to supply only one or two encompasses a 12 months along with his firm, specializing in high quality relatively than amount. He added {that a} frequent criticism of Saudi content material is that it lacks the standard of Egypt or Hollywood, notably with regards to efficiency.

Aymen Khoja throughout filming in Los Angeles. (Supplied)

“I fear that the audience will not have confidence in Saudi films if we keep making low-quality films. That’s the big challenge for us today,” he stated. “I need to be sure that to any extent further our Saudi content material turns into 100% higher. Within a couple of years, we need to compete with the Egyptians and Americans.

“Looking at the market today, directors have amazing talent. But when they walk onto a film set they don’t know how to find solutions, they don’t know how to talk to actors,” he continued. “With a little bit of coaching on how to manage it, they can do way better.”

At the second, whereas the trade remains to be so younger within the Kingdom, audiences are keen to come back out and help native films just because they’re native, Khoja stated. And that would rapidly turn into an issue, he believes.

“As a Saudi filmmaker I appreciate the support, but I want Saudis to come and watch a film because the film is great and they want to enjoy it. Not because they want to support Saudi films,” stated Khoja.

He believes genuine help from Saudi audiences is essential to the success of the native trade. To obtain that, nevertheless, filmmakers and producers should concentrate on creating high-quality productions, relatively than merely churning movies out.

Shooting the 2016 movie “Waheed” in California – (from left) Aymen Khoja, cinematographer Dani Lopez, Shane Fransworth. (Supplied)

“There’s no reason why a Saudi film cannot be better than an Egyptian or American film. Storytelling is the most important thing and we have amazing stories. We just need to master how we tell them,” he stated.

“Patience is very important too. I’ve seen a lot of filmmakers quit (too) easily because they were not able to get the funds or the support.”

Khoja is presently engaged on two films himself. The first is a rom-com — “Bil Halal” — which may be very private to him, because it tells the story of a Colombian lady marrying a Saudi man from a conservative household. This, he defined, is the story of his personal marriage. It will likely be filmed in each Columbia and Saudi Arabia with an Arabic, English and Spanish script. He hopes to start manufacturing earlier than the top of the 12 months.

His conservative upbringing didn’t simply make his romance along with his spouse tough, it additionally meant he needed to wrestle to persuade them that changing into a filmmaker was a viable profession alternative.

“It was a very long and tough journey to convince them and find a way to chase my dream,” he stated. “But if you believe in it and feel very passionate, I think you can make it. Nothing should stop you, at the end of the day.”

He did have a phrase of warning for aspiring filmmakers who consider making films is their path to riches, nevertheless.

“If you want to be rich, make commercials. Don’t make films,” he stated. “Maybe open up a coffee shop — that will make you rich faster.”

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