This year’s special focus is on “Science Fiction Cinema.”

Curtain to rise Thursday on 10th Saudi Film Festival at Ithra

Film buffs, production companies and rising stars from across the region’s burgeoning film industry will descend on the King Abdulaziz World Cultural Center (Ithra) on Thursday as the curtain rises on the eight-day Saudi Film Festival promising an action-packed week with 76 film screenings and 53 titles vying for 36 awards as it celebrates its tenth anniversary session.

Organized by the Cinema Society in partnership with Ithra, and with the support of the Film Commission of the Ministry of Culture, the festival, which runs May 2-9, will open with “Underground,” a feature-length documentary by Saudi director Abrrahman Sundakji that showcases the talented artisans behind the Kingdom’s craft industry. It is also one of the films participating in the documentary film competition.

This year’s edition has a thematic focus on Science Fiction Cinema.

Competition and Awards

SFF has restructured prize submissions to raise the level of competition. A total of 53 long, short and documentary film entries nominated by the festival’s technical committee will compete for 36 prizes and display at the festival in three categories:

  • Film Competition
  • Unexecuted Screenplay Competition
  • Production Market Projects Competition.

Golden Palm Awards have been added to recognize best Saudi documentary about the environment, as well as a second-place award for animated short film.

On the sidelines of the high-profile screenings, the festival will feature myriad activities for film professionals, including 10 training workshops, two focused on production market participants and short- and long-scenario development.

There is also a symposium and a total of 13 masterclasses covering a wide range of cinematic topics.

Over its 10 cycles, the Saudi Film Festival has featured 1,444 participating films, more than 2000 unexecuted scenarios, launched 289 projects in the production market, and handed out 155 cinema awards, all of which has advanced Saudi’s growing film industry.

To mark the occasion, visitors and participants alike can visit the Festival Museum, where the festival’s colorful history will be on display, peruse the Cinema Society’s “Saudi Encyclopedia of Cinema,” which includes 20 books covering all aspects of film, or attend book-signing sessions.

A children’s program will also be made available offering interactive experiences, meet and greets with Saudi film stars and tours of Ithra.

Honoring Cinematic Pioneers

SFF continues to celebrate the achievements and careers of cinematic pioneers in the Kingdom and across the Gulf, with the honoring of Saudi artist Abdul Mohsen Al-Nimr, well-known and regarded for several cinematic experiences such as The Sun (1990), Shadows of Silence (2006), Thobe The Wedding (2016), Long Road (2022), as well as Hajjan (2023) and Ithra Film Production (IFP), which premiered globally at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival and recently took home three awards at the Gulf Film Festival including Best Feature, Best Actor and Best Cinematography.

For more information about the 2024 Saudi Film Festival, visit

— The Arabian Sun: April 29, 2024