Ithra announces two new films at the Cannes, including Mohamed Hefzy’s Sea of Sands

July 12, 2021

CANNES, France, — The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is revealing two new films as part of its participation at the Saudi Pavilion, which is hosted by the Saudi Film Commission, at the 74th edition of the Festival de Cannes 2021.

Celebrated Egyptian screenwriter and producer Mohamed Hefzy will introduce his Ithra-commissioned film Sea of Sands (working title) alongside the unveiling of Saudi award-winning independent filmmaker Khalid Fahad’s Valley Road.

The move forms part of Ithra’s strategic commitment to nurture and develop talent across the Kingdom’s creative industries.

Produced under the Ithra Film Productions banner, Sea of Sands and Valley Road are both scheduled for release in 2023. Ithra confirmed that the cast and crew for both films will consist of aspiring Saudi talent, thus nurturing a new generation of film creatives.

They follow the successful international release of the experimental 2018 film Joud, an unconventional meditation on the cycle of life, Ithra’s first commissioned film.

“Ithra Film Productions is a leading indie film producer in Saudi Arabia,” said Majed Z. Samman, head of Performing Arts & Cinema at Ithra and the producer of Sea of Sands and Valley Road.

“We support the Kingdom’s growing film industry by nurturing homegrown talent and fostering cinema and filmmaking in Saudi Arabia. We are honored to announce our next two projects at one of the world’s most prestigious film fairs as part of the Saudi Pavilion at Cannes Film Festival.”

Hefzy is a known name at Cannes, having had three films entered in the official selection at the festival, and most recently a fourth film announced in the prestigious Critics’ Week section. A leading figure in the industry in the Middle East and Africa, he has written, produced and co-produced nearly 40 feature films in Egypt, the US, the UK and the Arab world.

His latest project, Sea of Sands, is a coming-of-age story centered around a young orphan Bedouin and a camel who form a special bond and embark on a journey across Saudi Arabia.

“Ithra has played a significant role in supporting independent filmmakers from Saudi Arabia at a critical time just as the Kingdom’s booming film industry begins to take shape,” said Hefzy.

“I am thrilled to work with them and all the Saudi and Arab talent who will be joining this exciting project.” The film is set to be filmed in various locations around Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Fahad’s Valley Road follows the odyssey of Ali, an autistic young man who gets lost on the way to see a doctor in a nearby village. Ali finds himself alone in the middle of nowhere, where a series of obstacles and challenges cannot stop him from discovering the world ahead of him.

The ambitious project Joud was Ithra’s first commissioned film. Described as an “ancient poem for modern times”, the critically acclaimed film uses an experimental story structure derived from a pre-Islamic form of poetry, the “Qasida”.

The dialogue-free film was shot in 16 locations across Saudi Arabia and screened at several international film festivals.

Apart from Ithra’s commissioned films, the Center is also the driving force behind several initiatives supporting the Kingdom’s film industry.

The Ithra Cinema, one of the few art house cinemas in the region, provides a purposeful and technological space for the Kingdom’s film talent to hone their skills and showcase their work.

It is home to Saudi Film Production, Saudi Film Days and the Ithra Film Society, which presents a full program throughout the year. Ithra is also the cradle of the annual Saudi Film Festival, the Kingdom’s first film festival supporting local talent and focused on content development.

Furthermore, Ithra Film Productions has helped dozens of filmmakers bring their dreams to life. One of the largest film producers in the Kingdom, it has produced 20 films, of which 15 have received local, regional and international awards.

Ithra is also offering a unique learning experience through a training and shadowing program, providing an opportunity for those passionate about filmmaking to craft their career in the field. — SG

July 12, 2021
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